SINGAPORE - Ensuring that seniors are not left lagging behind as public services increasingly move online, and making sure that there is sufficient aid for the lower income and vulnerable in society, were among the issues raised by participants in the latest Singapore Together Emerging Stronger Conversations(ESC) session on Saturday (Oct 24).
Held in Mandarin, the session was the first one to be held in a mother tongue language. There will be another session in Tamil on Nov 28, and another one in Malay at a later date to be confirmed.
The previous 11 sessions in the series, which started in June this year, were in English.
Saturday's session involved 50 participants and was hosted by Minister for Sustainability and the Environment Grace Fu and Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poh Koon.
"In the coming months, we will hold dialogue sessions in Malay and Tamil to listen to more Singaporeans," said Ms Fu, in her opening remarks in Mandarin.
She emphasised the need for close cooperation between the government and public, in building a more resilient Singapore in the new normal.
Ms Fu cited the Citizens' Workgroup on Increasing Demand for Local Produce, organised by the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment and Singapore Food Agency, as an example of how the government works with the public to discuss and formulate innovative solutions.
The government is listening to people's concerns and questions, said Ms Fu, and will respond to topics discussed during the sessions.
She cited the SG Together Action Networks which bring together the Government, community and businesses to address various issues, such as mental health.
Also speaking in Mandarin, Dr Koh said :"Based on the topics discussed in the sessions, we will form more action networks and partnerships to jointly find and create solutions."
Noting how mental health issues have become more prominent in this pandemic, Dr Koh cited the example of the formation of the Youth Mental Well-being Network in February this year, for youths, mental health professionals and parents to discuss youth mental well-being.
The other action networks currently are the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce that aims to strengthen support for students from disadvantaged families; the SG Cares Community Network bringing together 160 government and community help agencies to help the low-income and vulnerable; and the Beyond Covid-19 Taskforce formed in May this year by the National Council of Social Service to and strengthen the resilience of the social service sector.
At least 20 ESC sessions will be organised by February next year.
So far, over 1,600 Singaporeans and community partners have participated in the various conversations, discussing the challenges and opportunities facing the country in a post-Covid-19 world and solutions to emerge stronger from the crisis.
The sessions will be conducted digitally by default, until the situation allows for face-to-face gatherings to take place safely, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in a media release.
Mr Damien Koh, 24, an auditor, was attending his second ESC session.
For him, Saturday's session in Mandarin, which involved participants from different backgrounds and age groups, brought fresh perspectives on issues.
"It was a more mature age group and they were more focused on self-reliance, as the Merdeka generation generally have a tougher mindset. So they gave advice to younger people like myself," he said.
Mr Koh, who has been working for a month after graduating from Nanyang Technological University in June with a degree in accountancy, said the dialogues have exposed him to people from other walks of life that he would otherwise not have had the chance to interact with, such as political office holders.
For digital literacy educator Carol Loi, who attended an ESC session last month, the digital nature of the sessions make it more convenient for more people to take part, including those who would not have been able to make it for a physical session.
She found it enriching listening to the perspectives of other people, including a businessman who relies on overseas commuting for work and a young adult who is interested in the environment.
"I do read about such stories in the newspaper sometimes, but if I actually hear someone say it and tell their own story, it is different from just reading it," said Ms Loi.