The essence of the Singapore Identity
PUBLISHED ON 01 Oct 2018
We sometimes ask when we will achieve a Singaporean Identity but I think we already have one. Although it is still evolving, the fundamental elements are there, says Ms Indranee Rajah.

"We don't realise that many of the things that we do are not only uniquely Singaporean, but also quite exceptional. We assume that everybody else does it like this. But they don't. So we are unique. We have special qualities that define us. And we must always keep it that way,"she said in an interview with Petir.

Ms Indranee, who spoke about the Singapore Identity during the debate on the President's Address in May 2018, elaborated on it during the interview. 

She was promoted to full minister in the Cabinet reshuffle announced in April, making her the third woman minister in the cabinet. She is also the Second Minister for Education and Finance. 

She observed: "There are a number of things that I see as very Singaporean characteristics, which contribute to the Signapore Identity.

When we "chiong" together

One of them is "unity or how everybody chiong (rush in Hokkien) together whenever a problem happens."

That's when Singaporeans unite to resolve the problem, she pointed out.

While we may treat it as a given and are almost nonchalant about it, foreigners have noticed this element of unity in the Singapore Identity. When Ms Indranee meets her foreign counterparts, they sometimes express amazement at the speed at which we are able to resolve issues through collaboration.

In their countries, they told her, it's often difficult to get different government departments or sections of the population to work together. 

"But to us, that is expected, right? If something is to be done, we will ask another department or another person to help and they are usually very helpful and cooperative."

Another aspect of the Singapore Identity is our peserverance, said Ms Indranee. "No matter what the challenge is, we will try and overcome it. We will try different ways and methods. We will try and sometimes we may fail but we will keep at it untill we succeed.

Next big challenge: tackling inequality

For instance when the SARS epidemic hit in 2003 or when haze shrouded Singapore in recent years, Singaporeans pulled together. Longer-term issues like water supply and the housing shortage were also tackled together with successful outcomes, she pointed out.

"Our next big challenge is inequality - how to reduce the gap between those who are better off and those who are not. We haven't solved it yet but we are setting our minds to it. It is built into our Singaporean DNA that we want our people to do better 

"It's also in our Pledge, a promise to each other, that we are going to build a society that is more equal, more just, where we all progess together. So we must find ways to reduce the inequality gap. You will never find a case where everybody is exactly equal. But you also don't want the gap to be so wide that we have a very unequal society.

"That will be our continuing task, now and in the future," she said.

Read more at the latest issue of Petir