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PE2023 Singaporean Presidential contenders address core challenges: Unity, high costs, and trust

When prompted to share their perspectives on Singapore’s major challenges and how they would address them, former PAP senior minister Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam commits to enhancing unity and tackling climate change within global divisions.

In parallel, former NTUC Income CEO Mr Tan Kin Lian emphasizes addressing high living costs through collaborative government strategies.

Ng Kok Song, ex-GIC chief investment officer, highlights Singapore’s dual challenges—diminishing trust among the youth and the need for unity in navigating global geopolitics, a sentiment that echoes Mr Tan’s campaign slogan: ‘Bring Back Trust, Give Us Hope.’



SINGAPORE: During the hour-long live Singapore Presidential Forum held on Monday (28 Aug), the three contenders for the 2023 Presidential Election (PE2023) engaged in a comprehensive discussion that encompassed a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from their suitability for the presidency to their strategies for fostering unity and nurturing a more compassionate society.

The trio of Presidential contenders comprises distinguished individuals: Mr Ng Kok Song (75), the former GIC investment chief; Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam (66), a former senior minister of the People’s Action Party; and Mr Tan Kin Lian (75), the former NTUC Income chief.

The interview was conducted by CNA’s journalist, Otelli Edwards. When prompted to share their perspectives on Singapore’s major challenges and how they would address them, Mr Tharman articulated insights into the world’s divisive state, pledging to deepen unity and address climate change proactively.

In parallel, Mr Tan Kin Lian recognized the pressing issue of high living costs affecting Singaporeans and proposed collaborative measures with the government to mitigate property costs, wage disparities, and business overheads.

Mr Ng Kok Song illuminated two core challenges Singapore faces—a waning trust in the government among the younger generation domestically and the necessity for unity to address international geopolitical complexities.

Tharman’s vision for global dynamics, unity, and climate action

Mr Tharman illuminated the foremost challenge: a world fraught with troubles and divisions, where major powers fail to see eye to eye, and there’ll be efforts made by big powers to get Singapore to be on one side or another.

He emphasized the urgency of steering clear of aligning with any particular bloc and, instead, advocated for the cultivation of Singapore’s distinct international space. This entails nurturing existing partnerships while also fostering potential alliances that could emerge in the future.

He said building economic ties and keeping up political relations are essential components of preserving Singapore’s positive international reputation—a legacy that traces back to the visionary leadership of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his contemporaries.

“Secondly, it doesn’t work if you don’t have respect for each other at home. We’ve got to deepen our unity among Singaporeans, and I intend to be very active in promoting that. ”

He emphasized the need to always keep in focus the undeniable reality that the most significant global challenge, spanning across all nations—regardless of size or status—is none other than climate change.

He said Singapore need to start preparing to adapt and to respond to climate change.

“It may require some new finances, it may require the use of reserves for long-term Investments and the president has to be on top of understanding that challenge.”

Mr Tan Ki Lian highlights the cost of living issues most concern by ordinary Singaporeans

Mr Tan Kin Lian, the former NTUC Income chief, acknowledged the multifaceted challenges encompassing geopolitical tensions, trade frictions, and climate change.

Yet, he highlighted that Singapore is not exempt from internal issues.

Specifically, the cost of living and the high expenses associated with conducting business pose significant concerns.

He firmly believes that enhancing our competitiveness is imperative. To achieve this, he advocates for initiatives aimed at reducing property costs, addressing wage issues, and overall business expenses.

He believed that by strategically addressing these factors, Singapore could position itself competitively on the global stage.

Mr Tan Kin Lian is of the opinion that these critical challenges require governmental attention.

He is committed to engaging in discussions with the government to collaboratively work towards the goal of enhancing Singapore’s competitiveness. This, in turn, would lead to an increase in job opportunities for the nation’s populace.

Youth’s eroding trust in government raises concern, remarks Ng Kok Song

Mr Ng Kok Song, a former GIC investment chief, identified two overarching challenges that Singapore confronts: one on the domestic front and another on the international stage.

“I think the domestic challenge is that our society, particularly our younger generation, is getting more cynical about the government. They’re getting less trusting of the government, and this is quite worrying for me.”

Mr Ng stressed the importance of the government’s role in restoring trust.

He highlighted the crucial task of rebuilding trust among the populace, particularly among the younger demographic. Rectifying any breaches in trust and upholding integrity standards is a necessary step, a sentiment that echoes Mr Tan’s campaign slogan: ‘Bring Back Trust, Give Us Hope.’

Turning to international matters, he acknowledged the existence of geopolitical conflicts. However, he firmly believes that the nation’s strength lies in its unity.

By remaining united, Singapore can effectively navigate the risks posed by the international landscape. This unity is now more pivotal than ever.

He reiterated the President’s pivotal role in unifying the nation, as this unity resonates not only internally but also positions Singapore to seize opportunities within the challenging international environment.

The country will be polling for the ninth president of Singapore this coming 1 September with a total of 2,709,455 valid electors.

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If NKS returns the 3billion,then I believe him.
If Tharman as senior minister had punished the minister involved in Ridout,then I trust his Integrity.He did not stand up against the party when there are mistakes,how to do that as a president?
Tan kin Lian,not here not there,but I still choose sudoku man as I think he is not conniving !

Does TS or NKS actually believe they can unify us? They’re in cohorts with the MIW so even declaring non partisan doesn’t mean a thing to us anymore. TKL has the caring vibe for younger SGreans and see what he struck the nerve by saying he wants younger gen to get good jobs and check the current magical government. TS must have a very thick skin if he thinks that people trust the very guy who put was one of those who gave the thumbs up for GST increase instead of trying to defer it. Where NKS is concerned, I… Read more »

They flooded Singapore with more than 1 million foreigners + CECAsians and not telling us they are the unifying figures? A big joke is it ?

MRT trains especially on Saturdays and Sundays are packed with foreigners? Does Tharman & NKS knows? Alamak…!!!

TKL performed the best.

He really gave his best shots.

I watched most of his YouTube videos and listen to his speeches.

TKL is the right person to be President !!

Let’s be clear about something. The President’s job is not to unite Singaporeans or be some kind of unifying force to hold Singaporeans together. That is the job of the Government. But we know the Government is intent on dividing Singaporeans along racial lines. And to separate the natural aristocrats from the working class and the less fortunate.

I would urge the candidates to refrain from trying to confuse the electorate by bringing up issues which are beyond the scope of the Presidency. Know this. WE SINGAPOREANS ARE UNITED AS ONE PEOPLE.

Was the broadcast really “live”? I noticed that the answers given by the candidates were not addressing the last question asked by Otelli Edwards. Ng Kok Song was fumbling around with his papers and was silent for the first few seconds into his time period. Didn’t even hear TKL summing up. Or maybe I just lost consciousness for a few minutes … 🙂

We should ask this economist expert why so must reserves are lost in MAS, FTX, etc etc.

And why he resigned with that old man at the same time?

What do you think?

No offence. Mr. Tharman should work as a Foreign Minister since everyone claims he has world stage. Doubt he has the passion to serve the poor Singaporeans ($1000 salary can afford HDB flats)

Thank you. That’s my opinion.

Ah cock is jolly and appears to be having fun, basking in the limelight and publicity with his young toy tagging along. After that, go back for meditation.

What’s a good life!!

Only TKL has the well being of the people at heart.

Shits Times and Crazy Network Asia stepping up with negative reports and undermining ah lia.n.

On the other hand, rationalising and licking up for botak head to make him look good.

The centre is intended Plan! Nothing wil change except added benefit to SC & the corrupted politic circle stil merry go round. The future wif him wil b sufferin cos social life wil b FT 1st, SC wil b 2nd, roots r not concern, they r jus talkin system. On the right is Right! A honest sincere man wil open book & show SC the back door where the mil$ elite hide their game. Its a addition function to make SC proud of SG, a carin person voice the SG truth life on ground. On the left is Wrong! A… Read more »

Booby Otelli, oops Freudian Slip, Bubbly Otelli must have brought the best out of the 3 guys.

Anyway, 1 important question????
Tharman came up with Skills Future. However, $40 million dollars were raided from SG by Singaporeans & some got away yet to be caught.
He had the full machinery of the government & yet it happened.
How is he going to prevent such losses or rather theft, from our Reserves.
Given that Temasek’s due diligence has been dull all along.