While well-intentioned, the question of how the government can build trust with the younger generation (ST, May 23) and its emphasis on “consensus” as an answer still result in disproportionate deference to the government, thereby disregarding the ability of (young) Singaporeans to independently advocate for policy change – reflected by the many movements and organisations across a variety of socio-economic causes which already exist – and even their democratic ability to shape the government which represents them. In addition to the Youth Conversations, for instance, other groups have had no trouble organising their own forums or programmes to solicit views. Of greater interest and further independent of governmental involvement, it would appear, is facilitating the continued accommodation of diverse community voices as well as nudging uninvolved or lethargic individuals to be a part of these broader discourses. Continue reading
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