The recent focus on ground engagement among politicians and civil servants – to “go out and engage stakeholders and Singaporeans” (ST, Nov. 22) and to develop and nurture “a consultative relationship between the government and citizens” (ST, Nov. 22) – is odd not because of its importance in the context of increasingly complex governance demands, but because it might have been assumed that it should be or that it is already the norm. Central to policymaking is an understanding of the problems and how they are perceived by the individuals affected by them, and these interactions with constituents are especially important if the politicians and civil servants hail from different demographic or socio-economic backgrounds, and therefore have dissimilar perspectives and life experiences. Continue reading
The success of the upcoming national conversations depends if “naysayers” and less-privileged Singaporeans participate in these discussions, as well as the extent to which they can set the agenda and to extend their participation beyond these one-off endeavours.
And having participated in the Our Singapore Conversation series in 2012 and 2013 and the sessions by the education and defence ministries, and having benefited from the interactions with different Singaporeans, the risks of running over the same old ground and of selective engagement must be noted. Continue reading
The launch of a series of dialogues – christened the Youth Conversations – “to inform the young about important national issues” (ST, Mar. 9) is encouraging, but thus far it is not clear whether the government has considered the feedback from similar outreach efforts in the past, both to ensure a broader diversity of participants as well as to articulate a more coherent “so what?” vision: So what happens at the end of the process? And more importantly, since the Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth Grace Fu has said that the government will be more open, is it also open to ideas or projects which may run counter to what is expected, for youths to not necessarily find solutions together with it. Continue reading