TL;DR – Easier said than done…
Our president, Mdm Halimah delivered her address to open the second session of the 13th Parliament. In it, she outlined the achievements of the first session of the parliament, talked about the broader environment that we are in, and spelt out the government’s vision for the second session.
The speech raised some important points, and got us wondering about a few things.
Doing a lot… for whom?
The whole speech was full of examples of things to be done – from upgrading the physical infrastructure to strengthening the economy, from ensuring national security to forging a cohesive, caring and inclusive society. Singaporeans must be placed at the centre of all these efforts.
Not just a select group of Singaporeans, but all Singaporeans.
That’s why it’s heartening to hear in Mdm Halimah’s speech that we must tackle inequality vigorously. She said:
“Singaporeans want to live in a fair and just society, one based on meritocracy, but at the same time strives to leave no one behind. Thus we are each prepared to do our best, but also to walk alongside fellow citizens who need help to keep up.”
That’s no easy task. How much resources will we commit to that task? How differently will we do things to make sure that happens? Will our leaders be bold and radical in their attempt to tackle inequality?
Cannot just tweak, then… what?
Speaking of being bold and radical, in her speech, Mdm Halimah said:
“… the new leaders are conscious that Singapore is at quite an advanced stage of development. We may feel that we have more to lose now. We may be tempted not to go for bold changes, but instead be content to tweak things at the margins. That would be the wrong approach. Singapore has a lot going for it… We need to keep alive the spirit of our pioneers and be constantly driven to do better, with each generation surpassing the previous.”
We wonder what that means. Does it mean that the 4G leaders will be courageous and visionary, making bold, decisive, and sometimes controversial and risky decisions? Will they slaughter sacred cows, abandoning policies that might have worked well in the past, but are now no longer useful, or even downright harmful?
Fire up and mobilise Singaporeans… how?
Mdm Halimah’s speech emphasized that the 4G leadership needs to “fire up and mobilise the spirit and energy of young Singaporeans”. The speech then went on to rightfully pointed out that the right to lead cannot be inherited; it must be earned. The speech suggested how the 4G leadership might go about earning that right:
“Their duty is clear, but the path will not be easy. There will be times of hardship, when they must demonstrate leadership and resolve. There will be moments of truth, when they have to stand firm on principles and ideals while seeking practical resolutions. They will need to listen to the views and feelings of the people, and by their words and deeds, show that they have heard; yet never fear to lead and mobilise public opinion to support difficult policies in the long-term interest of Singapore.”
But people will only follow leaders if they believe that those leaders will bring them to a better place, improve their lives, and give them and their children a better future.
It’s not just about appearing to listen to people. It’s about painting a vision that most, if not all Singaporeans, can rally around. It’s not just about presenting cold, clinical, and rational arguments, expecting that those will convince and “fire up” people.
So will we see the 4G government not only speaking to the head, but also appealing to the heart as well? So will we see more of a human touch in the policy making process rather than a cold and clinical approach?
We will judge the government by their actions
The second session of this parliament will probably let us have a clearer view of what sort of leaders the 4G leadership will be. It really doesn’t matter what they say. What matters is what they do. There are still a few more years before the 4G leadership truly step up to take over form the 3G. Let’s see how they perform in those years.