Govt should change how it listens to people

I agree with the view Associate Professor Alan Chong of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies holds - that the Government should change the way it listens to dissenting voices (President's call for bold changes draws bold ideas; May 9).

Being more knowledgeable and educated, Singaporeans are aware of their rights, and the service which the Government is obliged to provide.

Gone are the days when policymakers were regarded as special professionals who should not be doubted or questioned.

Sad to say, some individuals and civil society groups are still reluctant to come forward to share their ideas and feedback, especially the seemingly dissenting ones, for fear they would be labelled as being anti-establishment.

In our local context, people have myriads of ideas and suggestions about bread-and-butter issues such as the high cost of living, unemployment, public housing, children's education, and Central Provident Fund usage.

Voicing these concerns does not mean that they are against the policymakers, but is a way to draw the leaders' attention to their plight so that their hardship and difficulties will be looked into.

More importantly, a leader should first be a good listener and not get defensive or jump to a conclusion when opening up to ideas from the populace.

Whether their ideas and suggestions are practical or not are secondary, but what matters most is their willingness to share in order to further improve the well-being of our country.

This is one of the effective ways to forge an inclusive society, which we have been striving for.

Jeffrey Law Lee Beng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2018, with the headline 'Govt should change how it listens to people'. Print Edition | Subscribe