Ministers kick off community visits under new 4G format

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung (third from right), National Development Minister Lawrence Wong (fourth from right) and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo (in pink) with Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng (second from right), residents and PCF kindergarten pupil
Education Minister Ong Ye Kung (third from right), National Development Minister Lawrence Wong (fourth from right) and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo (in pink) with Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng (second from right), residents and PCF kindergarten pupils at Jurong Central Sky Garden yesterday. Mr Ong said having multiple ministers go on such visits together gives residents more opportunities to speak to the ministers directly.PHOTO: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Three ministers together visit residents in Jurong Central as part of efforts to better understand the issues they face

In coffee shops, void decks and around neighbourhood shops, Singaporeans might soon start seeing more of the Cabinet ministers as the Government kicks off a discussion series to hear people's views on various issues.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung disclosed plans to try a new format for ministerial community visits as he completed such a visit to Jurong Central yesterday, along with Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

The three ministers' visit was a departure from the past, as such visits typically involved one minister each time.

Mr Ong said the new format was part of bigger efforts, announced in May, to better understand issues that Singaporeans face.

When Parliament reopened in May after its mid-term break, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had said the Government would be starting a series of discussions to engage different segments of society, and give all Singaporeans an opportunity to turn good ideas into actions.

Yesterday, Mr Ong said the discussion series "can be formal like a dialogue, (and) it can also be informal, involving more ministers walking the ground, speaking to residents randomly in a coffee shop".

"That is also a meaningful way of having a discussion series," added Mr Ong, who is in charge of coordinating ministerial community visits for this term of government.

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If there are issues, I can just talk to them.

HOUSEWIFE AZIZAH BUDIN, 50, who lives in a rental flat in Jurong East. She said this was the first time she had met all three ministers.

Having multiple ministers go on such visits together gives residents more opportunities to speak to the ministers directly, he said of the new format mooted by the fourth-generation (4G) political leaders.

He pointed out how, during yesterday's visit, residents with school-going children approached him to chat about topics such as school work, tuition and applying for entry into polytechnics. Those looking for work, meanwhile, approached Mrs Teo, and those facing issues with the Housing Board spoke to Mr Wong.

Mr Ong added that the ministers would also exchange notes after the visit, to get a more holistic understanding of the issues people face.

Housewife Azizah Budin, 50, who lives in a rental flat in Jurong East, said this was the first time she had met all three ministers.

"If there are issues, I can just talk to them," she said, adding that she did not have anything specific to bring up this time around.

Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng, who oversees the Jurong Central ward, said some of the residents appreciated being able to raise their concerns to the ministers directly.

Some residents, though, lamented not having enough time to speak to the ministers.

Asked about this, Mrs Teo said: "This is the first constituency that we're trying it out with and, probably in terms of the pacing, we'll have to make certain adjustments.

"So we will collect the feedback and observations of the grassroots leaders as well as the residents who had a chance to interact with us, to see how we can improve it for the next round."

Mrs Teo, who held an hour-long dialogue with some residents, said the visit was a useful chance to hear from residents about the prominent issues on their mind.

"It helps us think about our policies, where to prioritise and also what kinds of interventions are needed in order to help people make progress," she said.

Asked if such visits will be ramped up in this second half of the Government's term, which will lead up to the next general election due by 2021, Mr Ong said: "Going ahead, let me see if we can involve more ministers and also intensify the visits. That way, I think we can speak to more of the residents."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2018, with the headline 'Ministers kick off community visits under new 4G format'. Print Edition | Subscribe