4G Leaders map out directions for Singapore
PUBLISHED ON 03 Aug 2018
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said “the next generation of leaders has to feel a collective mission and work as a team to succeed.’’ 
They must be “prepared to do difficult things when necessary, convince the people that we do such things for a good reason, and maintain the trust of Singaporeans,’’ he said during the debate in Parliament on the President’s Address.

Observing that political parties do not have a fixed lifespan, he said: “The PAP is determined to perform. We treat every election as a serious contest.” His message to all PAP MPs: “Work hard, serve the people, hold the ground, and win elections.”

Some of the 4th generation leaders spoke at the opening of the second session of the 13th Parliament. They focused on three key issues during the debate from May 14 to 18.

Enhance social cohesion, narrow social inequality

Education Minister Mr Ong Ye Kung noted that in recent years, there has been a perceptible reduction in social mixing among Singaporeans.

“When groups are predominantly formed along socio-economic status – whether one is rich or poor – it is the start of stratification and that will poison society over time.”

Describing it as a “national priority” to tackle inequality, Mr Ong said Singapore must keep working at it. “We must do so by appealing to the sense of unity of Singaporeans, never by pitting one group against another, or pandering to the divisive forces in society.”

Policies such as SkillsFuture, boosting pre-school education and developing more pathways will yield results in the years to come. For instance, to ensure the social mix in schools is maintained, Mr Ong said from next year, secondary schools with affiliated primary schools would have to admit at least 20 per cent of students without affiliations.

Housing is also another way to tackle social inequality, by having both rental and purchased HDB flats in the same block, said National Development Minister Mr Lawrence Wong.

Three Build-To-Order blocks in Woodlands, Bukit Batok and Sengkang are being built which will feature such integration at the outset. “Our housing and urban plans must continue to push back against the growing pressures of inequality and social stratification. We cannot just leave things to chance, we must deliberately plan for a more equal and inclusive society,’’ emphasised Mr Wong, who is also Second Finance Minister.

More integration in the works 

Being socially inclusive means looking after the elderly living in studio or two-room flexi apartments, as well as families in rental flats.

The Government supported about 1,000 households last year with housing grants and new programmes such as the Fresh Start Housing Scheme which helped rental households become home owners. For the elderly, more complexes like the new Kampung Admiralty in Woodlands, which integrates flats with community services, medical facilities and shared spaces, are being planned in other HDB towns, said Mr Wong.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Mr Masagos Zulkifli called for the development of a Singapore brand of meritocracy, to build a “Singapore where nobody is left behind and a Singapore which continues to provide opportunities for everyone to realise his dreams.”
He identified three ingredients for the Singapore brand of meritocracy: the successful giving back to society; maintaining common spaces and experiences for all Singaporeans; and support from the Government.

He noted that common spaces such as hawker centres, parks and town centres are key nodes in building cohesion as they are where people of all races and social levels interact. “These common spaces are even more meaningful because they guarantee common access to quality public facilities and infrastructure for all,” said Mr Masagos, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.

The Government must distribute rental housing across the island and mix public and private housing more deliberately to ensure the needy are not deprived of access to quality public facilities. “Resist the ‘Not In My Back Yard’ tendency to shove critical but undesirable facilities
like funeral parlours behind rental blocks,” he said.

Grow a resilient workforce

Minister for Trade and Industry Mr Chan Chun Sing said Singaporeans must be equipped with the mindset and skillsets to operate globally. The Government will also help individuals and businesses access and penetrate the global market better.

“It is not just about giving Singaporeans the best opportunities here in Singapore, but it is also about helping Singaporeans to seize the opportunities beyond Singapore,” he pointed out.

Mr Chan said it was important to “beat our own standards, even when we are at the top” for future Singaporeans to have even brighter prospects.

His vision was for the nation to become Singapore Unlimited – “unlimited by our geography, unlimited by our size, unlimited by our resources.”

He noted: “It is also our responsibility to continue building and planning ahead for the next generation. As we progress towards SG100, we need to start planning not just for the next 50 years, but also beyond.”

New labour chief Mr Ng Chee Meng, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said workers were concerned about the rising cost of living and had the feeling that no matter how hard they work, they would still not be able to adequately provide for their needs.

He said workers must constantly strive to upgrade their work skills and stay relevant in a changing business environment. Wages can only increase with gains in productivity, he added, and real wage increase is needed to help workers cope with the cost of living.

He also proposed the formation of a tripartite committee to better support older workers as we grapple with an ageing workforce.

And even though the Government has been repeatedly urging companies to upskill workers, this has not been carried out quickly enough, Mr Ng pointed out. “The labour movement will push the transformation agenda by working even closer with the Government and businesses.”

Build a Singapore identity

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ms Indranee Rajah, noted that the question of the Singapore identity was especially pertinent now as the country enters a new phase of the Singapore Story.

She urged young people to help write the next chapter of Singapore’s story. In her view, being Singaporean is to care.

Many Singaporeans recognise that social inequality and the lack of social mixing are a problem.

“We know it is a problem. The real point to note is that we care that it is becoming a problem and we are determined to do something about it. That is the essence of being Singaporean. If we see something wrong, our first instinct is to help, to fix it, to improve the situation.”

That, she pointed out, is the essence of being Singaporean.

Ms Indranee, who is also Second Minister for Education and Finance, added: “No matter what our background, each of us has a role to play, each has something to contribute to make Singapore a better place.”

Finance Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat wants to get more Singaporeans involved in decisions concerning their country by launching a series of discussions with various groups in society to hear their views on national issues.

Pledging that the 4G leaders will listen with “humility and respect”, he said as he wrapped up the debate: “We will consider all views with an open mind and adjust our course accordingly. We will communicate the thinking behind our decisions clearly. We will bring Singaporeans together and give everyone a role to turn good ideas into concrete action.”

To build a deeper partnership between the Government and the people, Mr Heng said the relationship must be sincere and grounded in trust. “The more we partner one another, the better we understand one another, the more the trust will grow.”