During his May Day Rally speech this year, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong first mentioned the Forward Singapore exercise.
This was how he described it:
“The 4G team and I will lead an exercise to refresh our social compact. We will engage stakeholders from every sphere: unions and people in private sectors. We will seek to hear your thoughts on the economy, healthcare, housing, education and many other areas including how we can continue to support and uplift every worker.”
On June 28, 2022, he gave the reasons why such an exercise is needed.
Strengthening social capital and fostering trust
Addressing union leaders at the launch of Forward Singapore, he said that refreshing Singapore’s social compact is important so that it will remain fit for the nation’s changing circumstances.
“A social compact that is deemed fair by all segments of society will strengthen social capital and foster trust and this is what enables us to progress together as a nation. This is why it is so important for us to refresh and update our social compact, so that it remains fit for our changing context and circumstances,” he said.
He then cited fraying social compact and more fractured societies overseas, like in Europe and North America, which split society and gave rise to extremist political parties on both sides of the political spectrum.
“Many people with difficulties coping have felt excluded from their nation’s progress and they sense that the system has failed the people. Their resentment has fuelled the growth of extremist political parties on both the far right and the far left. And as a result, many societies have turned inward and xenophobic, and they are unable to find a consensus on important national issues.”
No more business as usual
Although Singapore have done well, DPM Wong warned that it cannot be “business as usual” for the stable state of affairs can be easily disrupted.
“If our social compact fails, a large segment of Singaporeans will come to feel estranged from society, believing that the system is not on their side. Trust in the government and among various segments of society will plummet. Politics in Singapore will turn nasty and polarised and we will become a low trust society like so many others in Asia and Europe. And Singapore, If this were to happen, will surely fracture.”
Turning challenges into opportunities
A strong social compact can turn challenges into opportunities, said DPM Wong.
“We can find the silver lining in whatever comes our way. We can be a bastion of stability and opportunity in this world. And we can leave behind a better Singapore for tomorrow.”
And it is with this thinking and context that DPM Wong and the 4G team reflected on where Singapore is today, where it wants to be in the future and how to get there together as a nation.
“At this juncture as we prepare for a post-pandemic world, as we navigate an increasingly treacherous geopolitical situation, as my 4g team and I prepare to take on the mantle and lead Singapore forward, let us reaffirm our fundamental values, reexamine our principles, review our priorities and policies and chart our new way forward together.
“This is what the forward Singapore exercise is about.”