More than a national dialogue, here is why the ForwardSG exercise is more important than ever 

In two weeks, Singapore will celebrate its 58th birthday. While not a landmark birthday in the traditional sense, every year of our independence is still a milestone. For ours is an island nobody thought would survive, and as a tiny and impoverished country with no resources or shared identity in the turbulent sixties, Singapore could have gone the way of a failed state.  

Fortunately, we have not, and the Singapore story has become one of resilience and a celebration of adversity to strength. But the question is, will we continue to reach new heights? In light of increasingly contentious geopolitics, raging culture wars and polarisation, we cannot take for granted that the Singapore we know today will survive for its centennial jubilee. After all, much of the social compact formulated in our early years is slowly becoming obsolete and no longer fit for purpose as our values, priorities, and aspirations change with time.  

Therefore, it is not just good timing but also good sense that ForwardSG – a national exercise to refresh our social compact, was initiated to guide Singapore through these challenging times. 

One year into ForwardSG 

When Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong launched the ForwardSG exercise in June 2022, he asked the following questions, “Where is our country headed? What can we do now to secure the future we hope for?” Each of us will have different answers, yet that is what the exercise had hoped for – to have Singaporeans from all walks of life engaged in a national conversation that will reshape how we do things.  

Since then, there have been hundreds of engagements. Thousands of hours of focus groups and dialogue sessions whose feedback and recommendations have contributed to the five shifts to our social compact and policy changes reflecting these shifts in healthcare, education and housing. In a few months, the ForwardSG exercise will conclude, ending with a report which will hopefully articulate our collective vision for a fair and inclusive Singapore.  

One year on, we are seeing progress for ForwardSG. But recent events have only served to highlight how necessary it is to strengthen our social compact and re-examine how we relate to one another. 

In an increasingly divided and embittered society, we must continue to dull inequalities, sharpen social mobility and not define ourselves by the sum of the things we own and their cumulative value. To succeed in a world of intense economic rivalry, we have to marshal the talents of all Singaporeans and recognise diverse talents and skill sets. Finally, we need to build a Singapore identity to stay united because there will always be some amongst us who feel compelled to throw in a golden apple of discord and relish in our disharmony. 

It is the responsibility of each of us to come together and find the solutions that work best at balancing the needs of everyone to achieve a better future for Singapore, shared MP Mr Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris–Punggol GRC) during a ForwardSG dialogue with his residents. 

But more than that, ForwardSG is about building unity and continuity. It is also a labour of love, borne out of a wish that as we celebrate Singapore’s 58th birthday, our future generations and the next can continue to do the same. 

Photo Source: Lawrence Wong/ForwardSG via Facebook