SG Together: Reducing use of plastics, helping disadvantaged children are next two areas in which Govt hopes to partner S'poreans

   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

SINGAPORE - Six months after the fourth generation political leaders launched a new movement to get citizens to help shape policies in areas like 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 started for residents and others to better support children from low-income families.

At an interview with local media on Monday (Dec 30), 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 LGBTQ rights and HDB 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".

Both ministers, who are key members of the 4G team, were giving an update on SG Together, first announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in June 2019.

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 in 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's not just about being in government. You're elected by the people...(and) Singaporeans must have the ability to have a say and shape our future."

By bringing people together, added Mr Lee, the Government also hopes to create opportunities for groups with different viewpoints and interests to talk and try and find win-win ways forward.

 
 
 

This can help to prevent the kind of polarisation that has happened in many countries around the world, where people with different interests have pulled society apart in different directions, 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 together 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've improved our processes, and we've adopted new ideas."

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

Some of the initiatives under Singapore Together could also translate into measures at this year's Budget. The RecycleRight Citizen's Workgroup has resulted in four pilot projects which will be formalised early this year, while the Citizen's 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 Singapore 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?"