Conversations with public led to some policy changes: Heng

Volunteers Badrun Muneera Mohamed Ali (left) and Nuraeen Basir out to explain the Pioneer Generation Package to beneficiaries in 2015. The package was the result of many Singaporeans' wish for more inclusive healthcare coverage, says Deputy Prime Min
Volunteers Badrun Muneera Mohamed Ali (left) and Nuraeen Basir out to explain the Pioneer Generation Package to beneficiaries in 2015. The package was the result of many Singaporeans' wish for more inclusive healthcare coverage, says Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.ST FILE PHOTO

Several policy changes in recent years resulted from a national conversation series that the Government launched in 2012, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

He recounted yesterday how when he led the Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) series to canvass views from 2012 to 2013, he was unsure where the open-ended conversations would lead .

Many Singaporeans were also sceptical at first and unsure if their opinions would be taken seriously, he noted at a dialogue. "But not only were they heard, we were able to translate their inputs into significant policy changes."

The Pioneer Generation Package, for instance, was a direct outcome of many Singaporeans saying they wanted more inclusive healthcare coverage, he added.

The transformation of MediShield into MediShield Life - a basic insurance plan to help pay for large hospital bills - was another, he said.

Many OSC participants also felt that Singapore's education system had become too high stakes at too young an age. So the PSLE scoring system was changed, with wider scoring bands to be introduced from 2021.

Mr Heng said he was heartened above all by the spirit and passion of Singaporeans.

 
 
 
 
 

"There was a diversity of views, some starkly opposed. But despite the differences, we were able to have open and constructive conversations," he said. "Everyone fought on the same side and wanted Team Singapore to succeed."

He also shared how, as a police officer in the 1980s, he and several others were sent to study the Japanese koban system, where police posts were placed close to communities.

They saw that in Japan, the police officer was part of the community, working with it to maintain law and order. Singapore thus applied the same principles and started community policing with neighbourhood police posts.

The police built trust with residents, and residents in turn helped the police keep everyone in the community safe, Mr Heng said.

He noted that when Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing and Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu led the SG Future series of engagements in 2015, they too were encouraged by Singaporeans wanting to take charge of their future and make their own contribution to society.

These experiences have crystallised the 4G leaders' goals as a team, Mr Heng said.

"They have strengthened my own belief that along with working for you, the Government needs to work better with you. We need to shift from a government that focuses primarily on working for you, to a government that works with you. Working with you, for you."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 16, 2019, with the headline 'Conversations with public led to some policy changes: Heng'. Subscribe