SINGAPORE - In coffeeshops, 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 these plans as he completed a ministerial community visit to Jurong Central on Sunday (July 15), along with Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.
Sunday's visit with three ministers was a departure from the past, as such visits typically involved one minister each time.
Mr Ong described the new format as part of bigger efforts - first announced in May - to better understand issues that Singaporeans face.
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat had said when Parliament reopened in May after its mid-term break, that the Government will be starting a series of discussions to engage different segments of society, and give all Singaporeans a role to turn good ideas into actions.
On Sunday, Mr Ong said the discussion series "can be formal like a dialogue, it can also be informal involving more ministers walking the ground, speaking to residents randomly in a coffeeshop".
"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.
Having multiple ministers go on such visits together gives residents more chances to speak to the ministers directly, he said of the new format mooted by the fourth-generation political leaders,.
He pointed out how during Sunday's visit, residents with school-going children had approached him to chat about topics like school work, tuition and applying for polytechnic. Those looking for work, meanwhile, had talked to Mrs Teo while those facing issues with the Housing Board had spoken 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 met all three ministers.
"If there are issues, I can just talk to them," she said, adding 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 had been excited to to speak to the ministers about their problems, even though they had already approached him for help.
"I think they appreciate being able to bring up their concerns to the ministers directly," he said.
Some residents, though, had 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 overall 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."