New Emerging Stronger Conversations will allow Government to hear from S'poreans on Covid-19 lessons: Heng

The office crowd at Raffles Place on June 15, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - To provide a platform for Singaporeans to reflect on their experience during the pandemic, and to hear from them on potential actions and solutions that can be taken to improve conditions in society, the Government will start a new series of dialogues, known as the Emerging Stronger Conversations, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced on Saturday (June 20).

"We want to hear how the crisis has impacted you, and how we can work together on your ideas to take Singapore forward... True to the spirit of Singapore Together, these conversations will lead to action," said Mr Heng, who was speaking in a national televised broadcast- the final one in a series of six on Covid-19.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said that the dialogues will be convened from June to September this year.

These sessions - which will be a part of the broader Singapore Together consultation exercise that was launched on June 15 last year - will allow participants to reflect on their experience during the Covid-19 crisis, and explore how Singapore can become a more caring, cohesive and resilient society.

"Our collective experience of the crisis gives rise to a natural desire to reflect on what is happening, what we are learning about ourselves, our strengths and fragilities, and how we can move forward as a society. We want to draw this out and use these reflections as core elements on which we can build an even stronger society," said an MCCY spokesman, who noted that the shared experience of Covid-19 will shape the attitudes and worldview of an entire generation, and has also brought to the fore issues such as work practices, digital inclusion and mental wellness.

The sessions will first be run online, until face-to-face gatherings can take place safely. MCCY added that the Government is "committed to engaging widely across different stakeholders", and will invite partners to convene their own conversations so that more can participate in such dialogues.

The first Emerging Stronger Conversation was held a few days ago, said Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister. He recounted a question by a participant, who had asked what Singapore and Singaporeans will be known for in the world.

The answer to this, he said, can be seen all around - school children sending messages to encourage front-line workers; social agencies, charities, and volunteers supporting the vulnerable; religious groups adapting to new forms of worship; businesses returning funding for the Jobs Support Scheme as they are doing well.

"We see Singaporeans from all walks of life, trusting in and caring for one another."

He urged Singaporeans to build on this spirit of solidarity.

" Let us collect the stories of kindness and courage, the stories of everyday heroes, and tell and retell them. Let our children reflect and deepen our 'values in action', so that they grow up united and resilient, and go forward in solidarity and with fortitude."

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In the worst of times, Singapore has also seen the best in its people, Mr Heng added, noting that the country had commemorated its bicentennial last year.

"Across 200 years of sweeping change, we grew from Singapore to Singaporeans. Today, less than 200 days into what will be a long-drawn fight, we are again showing the world who we are.

"We care for one another, we are generous and resilient, and we will not hesitate to make sacrifices for the greater good. These shared experiences will be etched in our collective memories."

Echoing a point made by Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean in a national broadcast, made earlier this month, Mr Heng said that the stronger Singaporeans are at home, the more secure its place in the world.

"Our strengths at home will enable us to be a valuable member in the community of nations... We can play a useful role in the regional and global community - in trade, innovation, rule of law, action on climate change, or pandemic management."

A trusted and reliable Singapore, relevant to the world, will in turn attract investments into Singapore, and give Singaporeans an edge in seeking opportunities at home or abroad, he added. "This Singapore premium is precious."

"A democracy of deeds, a society in action, one people working in unison, confident of our place in the world - this is Singapore Together. I invite all Singaporeans and friends of Singapore to join us in this effort."

Those who are interested in taking part in the conversations may register their interest on this website.

Singaporeans can also post their reflections and aspirations through the Singapore Together website. These perspectives will become part of the Emerging Stronger Conversations, said MCCY.

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