Singapore is an outlier in many ways.
As a tiny island, there was a time when people thought that Singapore would not make it. Except that we did, with the sentiment now immortalised in the iconic National Day song “We Are Singapore”.
Similarly, in a world where trust between governments and people have reached a low ebb, Singapore has bucked the trend, with 76 per cent of respondents in the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer trusting the Singapore Government.
So why is building and maintaining trust so important?
Firstly, no government can function effectively if every word arouses suspicion. And in a landscape where governing falters and populism flourishes, it can lead to far-reaching consequences.
In addition, we have seen how high levels of social distrust have unleashed havoc all over the world.
Case in point: the push back against Covid vaccinations in the West. Citizens are unlikely to comply with regulations if they do not trust that their government has their benefits at heart.
Fortunately, that is not the case in Singapore, and we must keep it that way.
Speaking at the Party Convention in 2021, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted that measures against Covid-19 have worked because Singaporeans trust the PAP Government, which has made all the difference in a crisis.
And as President Halimah said at the opening of Parliament last week, trust is crucial in securing our place in the world, growing our economy and refreshing our social compact.
With so much at stake, it is no surprise that our MPs, Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok SMC), Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson SMC), have all spoken up on the importance of building trust during the debate on the President’s Address this week.
Building trust in an age of disruption
The irony with trust is that while it takes years to build, it can practically disappear overnight, disintegrating like a house of cards.
Because as MP Murali shared, “Trust cannot be assumed. It has to be consciously built and nurtured.”
Similarly, MP Tin noted that even though the Covid-19 pandemic has made the nation more united than before, Parliament must continue to build up trust to create a more inclusive and compassionate society.
Furthermore, leaders must demonstrate that what they do and say have the nation and people’s best interests at heart, said MP Pereira.
With these points in mind, the PAP has been engaging Singaporeans to build this trust since the 1950s.
Fast-forward 60 years and one pandemic later, the PAP Government has remained steadfast in putting the well-being of Singaporeans at the core of its policies and delivering faithfully on promises.
“We have been consistently producing results for the people – housing, healthcare, education, well-paying jobs, better lives. We have shown year in, year out, in good times and bad, in crisis after crisis, that the PAP government will always be with you,” said PM Lee.
Today, the PAP Government has built a legacy of trust synonymous with integrity and dependability.
However, in a post-truth world where facts and logic seem to matter less and less, building trust has never been so fraught with difficulties.
Technology has accelerated the transmission of information, and a cacophony of views bombards the internet at supersonic rates.
Meanwhile, social media has become an echo chamber of sorts, amplifying biases, feeding disillusionment and building common ground of the wrong kind, all at the same time.
But amidst a different landscape, a desire to deepen trust and effect change will continue to be a priority for the PAP Government.
Because as PM Lee said in an emotive speech reiterating the need for trust in Parliament on Wednesday (April 19), Singapore stands no chance if it does not close ranks.
“We must nurture that deep and precious trust that we have between the government and the people, and also among Singaporeans, and work hand in hand towards a shared vision of our future.”
Cue Forward Singapore – a whole-of-society effort to engage Singaporeans in policymaking. To hear them out and build consensus, refresh our social compact and shape the roadmap for the future.
Admittedly, building trust is never easy.
But in an increasingly polarised and fractured world, we must ensure that Singapore remains a high-trust society. Only then can Singapore weather the storms ahead and continue thriving as an independent nation.
Echoing MP Murali, “We must therefore trust each other, trust our leaders, and trust our shared identity to build a brighter future together.”
Otherwise, we might end up with a new song titled “We are (not) Singapore.”
Picture Source: Ng Chee Meng/ Lawrence Wong/ Murali Pillai via Facebook