ST Global Forum: Relook traditional mindsets on life as Singapore moves forward, says Heng Swee Keat


Working adults must continue to learn, while seniors and young people have many new challenges to engage in, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.
Working adults must continue to learn, while seniors and young people have many new challenges to engage in, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - For many people, life can be divided into three simple stages: study, work, retire.

But this traditional mindset is due for a relook, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (Jan 11).

Working adults must continue to learn, while both seniors and young people now have many new challenges to engage in, he said.

"How can we enable our young people to learn even better; enable our working adults to learn?" Mr Heng said at The Straits Times Global Outlook Forum. "And how do you continue to stay mentally and physically healthy and socially active as you age?"

He had been asked for his take on the challenges Singapore will face this year, and if the country will be in for another hard slog.

"I think this year will be better than last year, mainly because with the vaccinations, there is some hope of bringing the pandemic under some control," Mr Heng responded.

But he also noted that recurrent waves of the virus have resulted in the situation worsening overseas, even in countries and cities that had originally done well. "It is not something that we can wish away, so I would say that we need to take a very realistic approach to this."

When asked what positives came out of Singapore's experience with tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, pointed to the Emerging Stronger Taskforce set up to study economic changes accelerated by the coronavirus.

The task force adopted a "very different approach" by establishing Alliances for Action, which brought together industry leaders, union representatives and government agencies on topics such as sustainability and digitalisation.

In the longer term, Singapore will need to grapple with two key challenges, Mr Heng said.

Its rapidly-ageing population means that it will have to look at how it can continue to take good care of seniors. The country must also focus on how to help younger Singaporeans access opportunities.

This means that part of Singapore's research agenda will go beyond human health to focus on human potential, Mr Heng said.

"So am I more optimistic?" he added. "I'll say that well, we just need to have a sort of fairly robust attitude and hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst."