SINGAPORE - A citizens' panel to improve work-life harmony that will tap the ideas and perspectives of Singaporeans will soon be launched by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Saturday (June 15).
The initiative is an example of the new way in which his generation of leaders will work in partnership with Singaporeans, tapping their diversity of expertise to design and implement policies.
Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, was speaking at a dialogue session jointly organised by government feedback unit Reach and national broadcaster CNA.
In a speech, he gave the audience a sense of the style of governance - one which focuses on working with, rather than for its people - that Singaporeans can expect from his team.
This involves "room to debate and deliberate" on policies, with citizens working in partnership with the Government to improve and deliver policies.
"We will work hand-in-hand with more of you to design and implement solutions across a wider range of issues and policy areas," he said.
Other areas in which the Government will work with Singaporeans are environmental sustainability, housing, social mobility and engaging younger Singaporeans on their vision for the nation through the Youth Action Plan.
In each of these areas, one or more Cabinet ministers will work with citizens to come up with solutions, Mr Heng said.
These will build on existing efforts to engage citizens, such as the Health Ministry's Citizens' Jury for the War on Diabetes or the multi-agency Uplift Taskforce to help disadvantaged children.
On environmental sustainability, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli and his team at the ministry are engaging citizens, civil society and businesses to come up with concrete action in this area.
In housing, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and his team will work more closely with residents to shape their living environment and build a stronger sense of community.
For young Singaporeans, Culture, Community and Youth Minister Grace Fu and her ministry are working with youths to create a vision of Singapore 2025 through the Youth Action Plan.
And in social mobility, Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee and Education Minister Ong Ye Kung will be leading their respective ministries to work with community groups to support the disadvantaged and give them a good start in life.
Mr Heng said he had also been working closely with key members of the 4G team - Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran, Mrs Josephine Teo, Mr Ong Ye Kung, and labour chief Ng Chee Meng - as well as business associations, trade chambers, and unions to build Singapore's future economy, to create good jobs for its people, and help the country's businesses succeed.
"We are also reaching out to many Singaporeans with the help of thousands of volunteers, and we can do more," Mr Heng added.
He cited the Community Network for Seniors led by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong to build a community of care and support, the SG Secure initiative led by Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam to better galvanise the community and make Singapore more resilient in times of crisis, and the Smart Nation Ambassadors led by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who oversees the Smart Nation drive, to help every Singaporean use digital technology in a human-centred way.
Mr Heng said: "We will encourage and support individuals and groups to come together for the common good."
He noted that the pace of partnerships between like-minded people coming together to take action has picked up over the years. For instance, the Friends of Ubin Network has seen academics, residents, and members of the heritage community come together to brainstorm and develop new initiatives for Pulau Ubin. He called for more Singaporeans to join in efforts to solve problems and make a difference for the nation.
"We may have different views, but so long as you have the good of Singapore at heart, we can work together," he said.
During his speech, Mr Heng also made reference to the "democracy of deeds", a phrase coined by pioneer leader S. Rajaratnam in 1971 to describe the sort of society that Singaporeans should strive towards.
Mr Rajaratnam had hoped that Singaporeans would get involved in solving the fledgling nation's problems, working in partnership with the Government in doing so.
"Partnership is about more than contributing feedback, suggestions or ideas," Mr Heng said. "It is about following through on ideas and suggestions and making things happen.
"Our future Singapore - the Singapore we are building together - must be an expanded democracy of deeds, with citizens taking action to make a difference."