Policies will not be constrained by existing ways of doing things, says Lawrence Wong

The Government will update and review policies continually, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong (right) on The Straits Times' The Big Story on Sept 3, 2021.
The Government will update and review policies continually, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong (right) on The Straits Times' The Big Story on Sept 3, 2021.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Amid a more challenging environment, the Government will update and review policies continually, and will not be limited by the old ways of doing things, said Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday (Sept 3).

"Nothing is cast in stone. We are not constrained by legacy thinking or existing ways of doing things; we will continue to review and see how we can do better," he added.

Mr Wong was speaking during The Big Story, The Straits Times' daily news programme, about the measures announced during the National Day Rally on Sunday by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to tackle the difficult economic and social issues of uplifting lower-wage workers and dealing with racial fault lines.

He said the issues facing Singapore have become more complex and may take a longer time to address, and acknowledged that some may wonder why things cannot move more quickly.

But he added that the Government would rather look at issues carefully and work hard to find a solution than to take the politically expedient route of applying a quick fix.

"It would be easy to come up with... cosmetic changes just for political gestures or for symbolic effect and pretend that the problem is solved, but that's not how we do things in Singapore," he said.

"Instead, we have always been upfront with the challenges. We have been upfront with Singaporeans about the issues we have to deal with, deliberated carefully each time we have to deal with a challenge, and then work very hard to try and find the best way forward."

He added: "It requires a lot more hard work, but there is no substitute for this sort of painstaking work. It may seem slow at first but in the end, I think we will achieve a lot more together."

The well-being of lower-wage workers was a key focus in PM Lee's Rally speech, and Mr Wong cited it as one of the issues that would require not just the Government's measures, but also society's efforts to address.

Among the measures announced during the Rally was an expansion of the Progressive Wage Model to cover more lower-wage workers, so as to help close the gap between the lowest-income earners and those in the median.

Mr Wong said achieving this will go beyond dollars and cents.

He noted that the value of a job cannot be defined solely by income, and this was evident during the Covid-19 pandemic when the contributions of front-line and essential workers, some of whom are relatively lowly paid, had been key in keeping Singaporeans safe.

"So I hope the moves that we are making will bring about not just a closing of the income gap, but a change in our mindsets too - that we truly value each individual for their contributions and their worth regardless of the job they do. We honour everyone, and we give them the dignity and respect that each person deserves," he added.

Ultimately, he said, the Government exists to serve Singaporeans.

"Everything the Government does, really, is about serving and governing with the interest of Singaporeans at heart because the Government is elected by the people and our mandate comes from the people."