SG Together movement

4G leaders want to partner citizens in more areas

A Citizens' Workgroup is being set up to explore ways to reduce the use of single-use plastics, while a Community Link-Uplift collaboration is being started for residents and others to better support children from low-income families.
A Citizens' Workgroup is being set up to explore ways to reduce the use of single-use plastics, while a Community Link-Uplift collaboration is being started for residents and others to better support children from low-income families.PHOTO: ST FILE

Range of issues the Govt hopes to work with people on is virtually endless, says Indranee

Six months after the fourth-generation political leaders launched a new movement to get citizens to help shape policies in areas such as work-life harmony and recycling, they want to do more.

A Citizens' Workgroup is being set up to explore ways to reduce the use of single-use plastics, and a Community Link-Uplift collaboration is being launched for residents and others to better support children from low-income families.

At an interview with local media on Monday, Second Minister for Education and Finance Indranee Rajah said the range of topics that the Government hopes to work with people on "is virtually endless". Even contentious issues will not be taboo, she said when asked if the Government would partner people on issues such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights, and Housing Board leases.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said such issues have already been discussed and the Government's forays into new approaches could provide new ways to "solve certain challenges and build consensus".

The two ministers, who are key members of the ruling People's Action Party's fourth-generation (4G) leadership team, were giving an update on SG Together, which was announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in June last year.

Since then, various ministers have spoken about how their ministries plan to work with people on issues as diverse as housing, the digital economy and education.

Ms Indranee said this represents an evolution of the way the Government has been doing things, and will become part and parcel of the way it engages with citizens.

"Going forward... everything that we do that impacts on citizens, and depending on the nature of the things, will involve some form of citizen engagement," she added.

"The 4G leaders are very conscious of the fact that it is not just about being in government. You are elected by the people...(and) Singaporeans must have the ability to have a say and shape our future."

By bringing people together, said Mr Lee, the Government also hopes to create opportunities for groups with different viewpoints to talk and try to find win-win ways forward. This can help to prevent the kind of polarisation that has happened in many countries, where people with different interests have pulled society apart, he added.

"We do this to also harness the energy and the collective wisdom of the community. Government won't have all the solutions and won't be able to solve every problem on its own with increasing difficulties and challenges ahead of us."

 
 
 

Working with Singaporeans and community groups has also changed the Government's viewpoints and approaches to certain issues, both ministers said. For instance, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) had asked to partner a network of non-governmental organisations helping the homeless.

Mr Lee said: "Working with partners, we changed our mindset. We have improved our processes and we have adopted new ideas."

Engagement sessions with social service agencies also informed the new approach of the Ministry of Education and the MSF towards helping disadvantaged children by better coordinating the available social services, said Ms Indranee.

Some initiatives under SG Together could also translate into measures in this year's Budget. The RecycleRight Citizens' Workgroup has resulted in four pilot projects which will be formalised early this year, while the Citizens' Panel on Work-Life Harmony has concluded with 17 recommendations that the Government will respond to early this year.

"Not all of the ideas are going to be able to be translated into Budget measures. But the ones that can and the ones that are relevant and timely, we will," said Ms Indranee.

As to how the Government will measure the success of SG Together, she said: "When it becomes an automatic reflex action that whenever we want to do things, agencies' first thought will be: How can we get people's input and participation in this?

"On the other hand, when the citizenry wants to do something, their first thought is: How can we work together with others and the Government to make this happen?"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2020, with the headline '4G leaders want to partner citizens in more areas'. Print Edition | Subscribe