By Tan Chuan-Jin
Some of you have been wondering about the direction and form of our conversation. I’ve discussed this via private messages with you and thought I might share some of my perspectives here.
We have been meeting many Singaporeans via various platforms. Whether in person when we visit our residents, in focus groups discussing specific issues, or broader talks and dialogues; or via the social media space. For me, there has been a wide range of opportunities as well, whether over lunch at MOM or at my local bak chor mee stall near my place! I have found it useful as the inputs have had an impact on our policy thinking and making. I know that my work in both Ministries have been shaped by views and ideas surfaced via these conversations. It gives me a good sense of the competing ideas and tensions.
Work is ongoing. Where there are things to be fixed, we have begun the process. Where Singaporeans felt that adjustments could be made, we have reviewed and changed where needed. But where we need to strengthen existing processes, we have. We do not start from a blank sheet and there are views and ideas that we have going forward.
For this conversation, we felt that it was important at the start to leave things as open as possible so that we can see what are the issues that Singaporeans feel and care for. We would like Singaporeans to not only chat with us but with each other. And to hear what others feel about concerns that matter to them.
This process will take the better part of half a year to a year. In fact, I hope that the platform can take on a life of its own and continue as a place where Singaporeans converse with each other.
Some are dismayed that certain topics have not been surfaced Some felt that there are obvious issues to grapple with and we should not waste time with this process. “Haven’t we gone through this before?!” was one refrain. I think if we had scoped it, the criticism would be about not coming in with an open mind! Some of us may have taken part in previous reviews but many have not. Let us respect their space as well and let them discuss and speak.
Swee Keat was right when he said that we should not go in with the view to slay sacred cows. Just because we have not surfaced particular themes at this stage do not mean that our positions are closed. It is about keeping an open mind for now. If and when the cows come up for slaughter, then we’d do the necessary if it makes sense. I’ve learnt from Sim Ann…I think I’d leave the cows un-named for now!
Let the many and varied voices surface. There are many who do not have obvious platforms. Let’s listen.
Themes are already emerging. Not surprising perhaps, but let Singaporeans surface them. We can then move on to more focused conversations after that. There will be areas where we can agree and find common space, and there will be areas where we would not be able to do so.
But even as we disagree, I believe that the way we do so will define us as a society.