Nominated member of parliament Laurence Lien on Wednesday night called for a new social compact for Singapore, where people reclaim responsibility for solving problems rather than waiting for the government to take action.
He said his fear was that expecting the government to solve every problem is "unsustainable", and would put "a huge burden on the shoulders of these few people in power".
One reason for peoples' reliance on the government, he noted, was its efficiency in organising itself and getting things done.
Mr Lien was speaking at the National University of Singapore (NUS)'s U@live monthly forum that features NUS alumni who champion causes that make a difference.
He asked: "What is the sort of society you want to live in? Is it one where things are done for you? Or where you yourself do things and contribute to the betterment of society?"
But Mr Lien also noted that young people were stepping forward in greater numbers to organise themselves in support of community, social and environmental issues.
In the dialogue that followed his opening remarks, Mr Lien listed poverty, perception of mental illness and treatment of migrant workers as the three most pressing social issues facing Singapore today.