Suddenly, it seems as though our Government has turned from an intimidating grizzly bear to a cuddly teddy bear.
Both the budget and national day rally this year seem to have a significant change in approach in many areas. What some would describe as hard policies and the relentless pursuit of growth at all costs in the past will indeed become a memory of the past if Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong manages to deliver what he has promised.
I believe this is a moment to celebrate. Perhaps we have reached a turning point.
The Government has introduced 3 key changes in their approach.
1. We will continue to grow the pie to ensure everyone gets a larger slice (not because of greater redistribution)
2. We will start to offer a greater variety of opportunities to Singaporeans. Be it in terms of work or educational opportunities, everyone should be given an avenue and the opportunity to pursue what they excel in for there is no one path that defines success.
Let the saying “Aiya, want to pursue… Go overseas then got chance la!” never be heard again!
3. We will have stronger safety nets. One of the main outcomes of the Our Singapore Conversation series was that Singaporeans hope to have greater assurance. PM has assured us of that during the National Day Rally. One line that he repeated over and over resounds in my mind. ” We are all in this together.” Cliché, but definitely reassuring.
Perhaps we can’t catch everyone when they fall. But hey, practice makes perfect. Maybe perfect is too big a word to use, but if I may…
“We may never completely reach an ideal, but because we have this ideal, we will continue to make progress.” – Mr Lee Kuan Yew
So back to the question. Has our Government gone soft? Hmm at first glance, seems legit. Then taking a closer look, no. The values that govern the decisions and policies made have not changed.
Meritocracy is the equality of opportunity and not the equality of outcome. I think this has been very well reflected in this year’s rally especially through the shifts in education.
For example, starting from the P1 military ex-… Oops, I mean registration. All children now have a fairer chance to enter any primary school of their choice even if they do not have piority. 40 slots may not seem much, but at least there is a chance. At the rate at which we were going prior to the rally, one day we were bound to end up with schools that would admit based on prior connections, turning our society into one where one thrived based on 关系 (personal connections), undermining our very principle of having fair opportunities for all.
From the days we studied social studies, we have consistently heard the phrase “self-reliance is key”. This will hopefully never change. The recent shifts of policy in healthcare and housing have clearly outlined that there is still a lot of emphasis on self-reliance. From the Our Singapore Conversations, we have noticed that the issues Singaporeans are still most concerned about are not about 377A or about the freedom of speech. Sure, these are important issues, but there are some that matter more. Bread and butter remain at our top priority.
When it comes to finance, there are 3 main pillars: the individual, community and the Government. As we face an increasingly ageing population, we understand the concerns of Singaporeans and see the need to relieve some of the financial burden on the individual. However, note that it is relieving some of the financial burden and not transferring the financial burden onto any one pillar. Like a stool sitting on 3 legs, should we remove any one, the stool will no longer be able to stand.
Once again, no, the Government has not gone soft. They have not changed our course. They have simply adjusted our sails, for we cannot change the direction of the winds of global trends, but we can definitely adjust our sails to continue steering in the right direction.
“Regard the present condition of the Republic not as a pinnacle of achievement but as a base from which to scale new heights.” – Dr Goh Keng Swee