SINGAPORE: Lawrence Wong, Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore, clarified that the timing for the Singapore government to publish the comprehensive Forward Singapore report holds “no significant implications.”
When questioned by reporters about the significance of its current release, DPM Wong stated, “We were in fact hoping to do it within a year, we took a bit longer.”
“So we thought it would be best to wind this up before the end of the year and in fact we have completed most of the engagements and most of the deliberations and we are now ready to put this out as a report”
Regarding the content of the report, DPM Wong highlighted that the publication of the report marks the end of one phase and the beginning of another. He emphasized the crucial next step of translating the ideas, suggestions, and recommendations outlined in the report into actionable steps and tangible results.
The government initiated the Forward Singapore (Forward SG) exercise in June 2022, soliciting input from diverse segments of Singaporean society on revitalizing the nation’s social compact for the future.
Following 16-month-long engagement with citizens, the recent launch of these initiatives assumes particular significance, given the current economic challenges. Notably, Political analysts are foreseeing the possibility of an early General Election in 2024, although the constitutional deadline for the next election is set for July 2025.
DPM Wong foresees swift implementation for specific and deliberated recommendations by 2024 Budget year
During the press conference held on Friday (27 Oct) to launch the Forward Singapore Festival at Gardens by the Bay, DPM Wong also addressed to reporter’s questions on expected timelines for the implementation of certain recommendations, such as the SkillsFuture top-up and assistance for IT students, as well as the establishment of the Singapore Government Partnerships office.
Additionally, the reporter inquired about how the 4G team collaborated during the exercise, addressing potential areas of disagreement and how the experience prepared them for leadership succession.
In response, DPM Wong explained that recommendations outlined in the report that were more specific and well-considered would likely have shorter implementation timelines, possibly within the budget year of 2024 or over the course of the coming year.
He noted that recommendations requiring further study or involving more complex considerations would naturally require more time.
DPM Wong also elaborated on the collaborative process within the 4G team, highlighting their frequent monthly meetings and in-depth discussions on specific policies, often involving multiple ministries.
He emphasized how the experience, built upon the challenges faced during the last three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, strengthened the team’s understanding of each other’s strengths and how they could complement each other effectively.
Furthermore, he emphasized that the Forward Singapore Report serves as a comprehensive roadmap for all of Singapore to navigate the uncertain, challenging, and volatile future.
He expressed confidence in the team’s shared consensus and the collective ability to continue building a better Singapore.
DPM Wong declines to specify 4G team’s mandate timing
A reporter from the Straits Times also asked DPM Wong about the timing of the 4G team seeking a fresh mandate to implement their agenda, especially considering the potential transition of leadership.
In response, DPM Wong deferred a direct response, indicating that further information would be revealed in due course.
“We will announce and you will know all that is to be known in due course, ” he said.
When asked about the government’s priorities in fleshing out policies based on the broad goals outlined in the report, DPM Wong said the priority setting, emphasizing that the government had already identified and commenced work on addressing critical concerns such as housing, retirement, and healthcare. He mentioned that the prioritization was based on the urgency of issues and the needs of the people.
DPM Wong clarified that certain initiatives would take longer to develop and implement, with the forthcoming budget in 2024 providing a platform to flesh out these plans in greater detail.
Regarding the significant departures in the government’s approach, DPM Wong highlighted several key shifts. These included a greater focus on providing support and assurances to Singaporeans during a period of increased disruptions and changes in the workforce.
He emphasized the necessity of careful and responsible policy design, acknowledging that these endeavors might require increased government spending.
Implementation timeline for re-employment support scheme
Separately, in response to the timing of the implementation of the re-employment support scheme, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng emphasized that the details of the scheme would be announced during the upcoming budget in February or March.
He then provided context, explaining that the current labour market data indicates a lower base compared to the previous year as the country was recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He noted that the long-term unemployment rate remains relatively low, hovering around 0.6% to 0.7%, and a significant portion of the reported unemployment statistics reflect job transitions rather than extended unemployment periods.
Dr Tan elaborated on the necessity of the Reemployment Support Scheme, highlighting the rapidly accelerating pace of change and disruptions in the contemporary job market.
He emphasized the need for individuals facing involuntary unemployment to not only rebound but also to do so with improved skills and capabilities.
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