Here is why the Forward Singapore exercise matters 


Same same, but different.  

Admittedly, that was probably our first reaction when Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong launched the Forward SG exercise last year. After all, this was hardly the first time Singaporeans were called upon to give their views in the name of public engagement. Nearly a decade ago, there was Our Singapore Conversations (OSC), followed by SGfuture in 2015 – both of which seek to map out a new future for Singapore.  

While the outcomes of these exercises were not immediately apparent, they have led to sweeping policy changes, including a new scoring system for the Primary School Leaving Exams (PSLE) and the introduction of MediShield Life. In that sense, the OSC and SGfuture have made a real difference in the lives of many Singaporeans, with Forward SG expected to build on the efforts its predecessors have achieved. 

Unfortunately, it is inevitable that some of us are likely to view Forward SG with a kind of cautious optimism, doubtful that our ideas could actually reach the upper echelons of policymakers.  

But here’s the thing.  

Forward SG has proven itself to be more than a box-checking, feedback-gathering exercise. Already, we have seen suggestions manifested into concrete changes, such as financial support for the involuntarily unemployed. Therefore, rather than lament the lack of radical policy announcements, the Forward SG exercise should be seen for what it is – an ambitious attempt to refresh our social compact and underscore the directional shifts we want to make as a society. 

Investing in a shared future  

Today, many of us will agree that there is more to life than online clicks, likes and downloads. Yet, like moths to the flame, we have allowed social media to dictate how we view ourselves and relate to one another. There are the echo chambers of negativity, followed by an endless comparison of material wealth and social prestige. All of which will only fuel a cycle of fear and loathing, apathy and mistrust.  

It is in these troubled times that we find ourselves at a crossroads. Do we allow self-seeking behaviour and division to stew? And if so, what kind of society would our children inherit? Would it be one where social mobility and employment opportunities have all but disappeared, followed by raging geopolitical tensions and climate change that threaten to engulf our island state? 

As such, Forward SG is an exercise that goes beyond tangible policies. In these tenacious times, it is a call to arms for Singaporeans to rethink and co-create a society that is fair, caring and inclusive. One that takes care of its citizens through all life stages, recognises success in various forms and provides the help needed to uplift the disadvantaged

With its seven shifts, the Forward SG report has brought about a renewed sense of optimism for a shared future. Because together, we can count on each other for support and build a society brimming with hope and opportunities. 

Photo Source: Forward SG via Facebook