Ministerial community visits, which have been around since the 1990s, took on a new format this month. Instead of just one minister visiting a constituency to better understand issues of particular concern in that ward and answer questions that residents there may have, the revamped version involves having several ministers on a walkabout together. The frequency of visits, which currently take place about once a month, may also be intensified, said Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who coordinates them. The visit to Jurong Central this month, the first under the new format, involved three fourth-generation leaders: Mr Ong, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.
The new configuration may not seem at first glance like a significant shift, but it could be an important harbinger of things to come. Gradually, it appears, the 4G leadership is putting an imprint on and applying a distinct style to aspects of politics and government here, as they prepare to fully take over the reins of leadership after the next general election, due by April 2021. Having more ministers on the ground at each visit gives residents a chance to interact with not one, not two, but up to three political leaders who make up the group that is charting the country's future. It sends a message that residents' views matter and are worth listening to. More ministers will be able to interact with more residents at one go and give them more face-time. Residents also get to hear directly from ministers who oversee a range of portfolios on issues that intersect their interests - whether it is school admissions, public estate maintenance, foreign worker levies, or jobs. With the quality of interactions enhanced, ministers gain from richer and more granular feedback, which they can discuss with Cabinet colleagues or bring to the drawing board, where these can be useful inputs for future policies.
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