1. Inspirational Vision
I’m thankful that our Prime Minister has addressed three key issues in our country.
However, deep in my heart, I was hoping that he would cast a more inspirational vision for our people.
History has shown that leaders who dare to dream great dreams and turn these dreams into a reality create the brightest future for their people.
With an inspirational vision, it can better motivate our people, galvanize our resources, and propel our people to achieve greater results.
As Singapore faces many challenges in the horizon, we need to continue to motivate our people and challenge them to craft an exciting future.
Many countries are adopting austerity measures and taking a cautious approach.
This is an opportune time for Singapore to invest in capitalizing on silver lining in every dark cloud, and leapfrogging over competing economies.
Just like what our founding fathers have done in the past, we should dream – and dream big dream – and take unprecedented initiatives to shape and influence our destiny.
I wished that our Prime Minister had addressed some of the major challenges facing Singapore.
The three issues that he raised can be addressed and managed by the other Ministers in the Cabinet.
There are major challenges that can be more urgent than adopting cashless payments on a wider scale.
These challenges include geopolitical issues, backlashes against globalization, impact of President Donald Trump’s policies and initiatives, balancing between China and the US, effects of Brexit, and disruptive technology.
3. Early Childhood Development
The government has adopted many vital initiatives to enhance early childhood development.
In this regard, I’m particularly concerned about children whose parents are unwedded, divorced or separated.
Research have shown that these children tend to have lower emotional and social quotients.
These deficiencies can affect their educational attainments and upward mobility.
There is a common saying that “Inequality starts at birth.”
For us to achieve “progress for our nation,” we need to eradicate such an inequality.
Therefore, we need to ensure that vulnerable children are not directly or indirectly disadvantaged because of their parents’ decisions and behaviors.
For example, we have to ensure that none of the children are labeled as “illegitimate” will further exacerbate the problem because such a stigma and the resulting negative childhood experiences can repeat cycles of poverty, restrict social mobility, and set back future generations.
In addition, we need a more concerted effort to help these children enjoy healthy growth, including targeted interventions in the areas of quality intellectual and emotional care, nutrition, health care, and pre-school education.
Early childhood development has to be managed not just by the MOE or the MSF.
Multiple governmental agencies and other relevant stakeholders, including parents, caregivers, teachers, social workers, and health workers should be enrolled to address these cross-sectoral issues.
For example, we need to help provide adequate nutrition to ensure proper physical development, and also social protection to support proper care and growth.
Promote a healthy childhood experience and environment so as to enhance socio-emotional, cognitive and linguistic developments, especially for children of divorced parents.
The quality of our nation-building process depends on quality of our early childhood development for every child in Singapore, and especially for the last, the least, and the lost.
4. Healthy Living
Health is more than just about not being sick or having less sicknesses.
It is about having the fitness, energy, and vitality to achieve worthwhile goals.
It is not just about physical health, it also includes emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental health.
Any of these dimensions can affect the overall well being of our people and their contributions to society.
Therefore, we need to continue to develop a culture for healthy living.
As a result, our people will become more committed and conscientious of preventing diabetes and other diseases.
They’ll be more mindful about the key factors that contribute to healthy nutrition, including glycemic level, sugar content, and dangers of trans fats.
Besides providing continuous education, we should also ensure that nutritional information are displayed in every food and beverage outlet to help consumers make better-informed decisions
Just as importantly, we should tackle the diabetes and other sicknesses from young and throughout the formal educational process.
5. Smart Nation
I commend the Prime Minister for addressing some of our shortcomings in leveraging on technology, including lagging behind some countries in adopting cashless payments.
To drive the Smart Nation project more effectively and efficiently, we need to take both a top-down as well as a bottom-up and peer-to-peer approach.
The public, private and people sectors must come to the table to help drive the project and ensure that even the last person on the street knows how to participate in, contribute to, and benefit from the project.
Perhaps, the government may have to hire a more diverse team of talents who are not from the public sector.
These talents should have a global view of the new world and be knowledgeable and competent in handling advanced and disruptive technology and its future developments.
There are ample evidence to suggest that diversity, pluralism and multiculturalism in a team can contribute new models, knowledge and skill sets to strengthen insights, innovations, and impacts.
As civil servants do not have a monopoly of wisdom, domain knowledge specialists can also be invited to become competent devil’s advocates to challenge proposed policies, plans and initiatives.
They should also continue to engage target audiences and solicit feedback from them as well as from the public.
By having a wider spectrum of inputs and contributions, it can compel civil servants to develop different presuppositions and models that may help achieve not just incremental but also quantum leaps of results.
In a fast-changing world, we need to also set up environmental scanning and intelligence-gathering systems on a global basis.
Build data analytical system that will help us harness information, analyse economic and business trends, and evaluate impact of new and emerging developments and opportunities.
These systems can offer us first-mover options to become a game-changing government that can help Singapore move up the food and value chain and become a global hub in the future economy.
6. Vulnerable Workers
A Smart Nation should adopt appropriate technology to help us improve our quality of life.
At the same time, it should ensure that nobody is left behind in our pursuit for growth.
In this regard, I’m concerned about helping vulnerable workers that may not be able to adapt to changes in the new economy.
This is an issue that requires not just the government but key stakeholders from the people, private and public sectors to collaborate and co-create solutions to tackle this issue.
For example, many elderly workers, including PMETs with knowledge and skills that are irrelevant or soon to be irrelevant may be in self-denial and may not be reaching out for help in re-skilling themselves.
Some of them may not have adequate level of self-esteem to seek for support and assistance.
We should look at how to engage the support of grassroots organisations and targeted VWOs, or even help to set up similar organisations to identify vulnerable workers.
Many of these workers may need personal counselling to help them develop self-efficacy, including courage, commitment and emotional competence to put the past behind them and pursue a new direction in their jobs and careers.
Just as importantly, they may also need career counsellors to help them map out their purposes, passions, performance levels, and priorities in the workplaces.
They may need expert help and supervision to identify and develop career possibilities that may fit their personalities and pursuits in the workplaces.
In addition, these workers may need personal coaching to help them ascertain relevant training courses and register for these courses.
They may even need personalised guidance and hand holding to help them participate in the course and persevere to complete all the necessary training programmes.
Concurrently, employers should be encouraged, educated and empowered to help these workers move up the learning curve.
They should be incentivized especially during these challenging times to free up their workers to re-skill, retool and redesign themselves so as to enhance their commitments and contributions to the workplaces.
By building a learning country and a deep-seated culture for continuous improvements, we can continue to stay relevant and effective, and be at the cutting edge of the brave new world.
I hope this message will find a place in your heart.
By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.
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