Parliament: A cohesive society hinges on planning and execution, not chance, says MP Cheryl Chan

It is the Government's duty to ensure every Singaporean has a home to live in, and every child grows up with equal access to education, jobs and a safe environment, Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan said. ST PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN

SINGAPORE - Ensuring equal access to education for every child and homes, jobs and a safe environment for every citizencannot be left to chance. It requires meticulous planning, putting in place social strategies and precise execution, MP Cheryl Chan (Fengshan) said on Friday (May 18) when rounding up the week's debate on the President's Address.

She distilled three broad areas that were touched upon by the70 MPs who spoke during the five-day sitting.

These are: Singapore's future society, future economy and national identity.

In her address, President Halimah Yacob had called for bold changes to help Singapore face a different future.

But in responding to her call, Ms Chan said the Government must not make changes for their own sake.

"We need to get the basics of the society right and not discard what works, just to be bold."

It is the Government's duty to ensure every Singaporean has a home to live in, and every child grows up with equal access to education, jobs and a safe environment, she said.

She also pointed out the need to reduce income inequality and enhance social mobility - two issues that were highlighted by many of the MPs who spoke.

"Be it through education, jobs, housing or urban planning, our future city should be one that embraces diverse ideals and uplifts fellow citizens from different backgrounds, a society in which every generation has equal opportunities to achieve their dreams and to do it better than the previous generation."

Such a society also requires Singaporeans themselves to share with others, she added, saying people should team up with the Government to make a social safety net that is more expansive.

"While the lower income group is always supported, we have to begin considering expanding our reach in different aspects; to give more protection and peace of mind to a burgeoning middle class," she said.

She said efforts to build an inclusive and cohesive society need to include the formulation of new economic metrics as well - an idea mooted by several speakers during the debate, which followed a one-month mid-term break.

"Our future economy cannot simply be a measure of employment and GDP (gross domestic product) growth. Our future economic metrics need to reflect societal trends and performance, such as sustainable income of the workforce, retirement adequacy, quality of life and intergenerational wealth transfer,"said Ms Chan.

The ongoing restructuring of the economy and transforming of industries must ultimately translate to jobs, reasonable wage increases and skills relevant in the changing business environment, she added.

To achieve that, she highlighted the suggestion made by several MPs to help local firms so they can "hunt better as a pack overseas" when venturing into foreign markets.

It is also important to cultivate local talent while attracting foreign ones, she added.

Nurturing the skills required for the future economy would require Singapore to broaden the definition of success among young students, she said.

"Reward them for having learnt and not mugged. Appreciate each child for their values and their demonstrable soft skills. In the long run, such students would intrinsically have embraced the concept of lifelong learning and be deployede in different fields."

But Singapore needsto be mindful to include global talents too, particularly in fields of study where there is currently a void, she added.

"I see the key role of the Government in ensuring there is cross-cultural learning and knowledge transfer to gradually build our local talents for the long haul," she said.

As Singapore strives to do well as an economy and do good as a society, the process is just as important as the outcome, Ms Chan said.

The Government should strengthen its engagement with people so that there will be a greater sense of alignment of concerns and aspirations, and a stronger sense of shared ownership, she said.

"As citizens, we should also share our views and ideas, endeavour to work with the Government in the spirit of encouragement and experimentation for an optimum outcome each time," she added.

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