Last Friday (27 Oct), in the culmination of a 16-month-long feedback-gathering effort involving more than 200,000 Singaporeans and stakeholders, the Singapore government published “The Forward Singapore (Forward SG) Report,” a comprehensive document spanning approximately 180 pages.
Positioned as a likely successor to the role of Singapore’s Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong aptly described this endeavour as a guiding “roadmap” for Singapore’s future, under the stewardship of the nation’s fourth-generation leaders.
Anticipating a series of detailed announcements in the upcoming months, including during Budget 2024, the report outlines various policy adjustments and recommendations. These adjustments will be focused on critical areas such as education, employment, family support, assistance for seniors and vulnerable groups, sustainability, and the cohesive strength of society.
Outlined in the report are seven pivotal shifts that aim to enhance the quality of life for the majority of society, including their children, while ensuring continued support for the most vulnerable segments of the population.
The report emphasized the need for collective participation from all sectors of society — individuals, communities, and businesses — to facilitate the realization of these objectives.
While the People’s Action Party (PAP) government asserts that the report’s publication is the result of “extensive outreach” to Singaporeans and is designed to address key concerns of the populace, there are differing opinions on social media Reddit, where discussions depict a more nuanced perspective.
Redditor highlights thought-provoking resemblance between 2013 OSC and Forward Singapore Report
The discussion initiated by Redditor u/shimmynywimminy draws a thought-provoking parallel between the newly published Forward Singapore report and the 2013 “Our Singapore Conversation” (OSC) initiatives.
Back in 2013, “Our Singapore Conversation” engaged over 47,000 Singaporeans in more than 660 dialogue sessions across the island. It was a year-long effort to collect the views and ideas of Singaporeans regarding the kind of Singapore they desired in the future and the values they hoped to embody.
This extensive exercise resulted in the emergence of 12 key perspectives from the “Our Singapore Conversation” initiative.
Interestingly, the Redditor astutely observed that the newly published Forward Singapore report bears some resemblance to the 2013 OSC in terms of certain perspectives.
For example, one of the perspectives highlighted in the OSC emphasized the need for “a society with diverse definitions of success.” Singaporeans at the time called for an evaluation of success beyond mere academic and material achievements and suggested a review of the practice of meritocracy.
Remarkably, the 2023 Forward Singapore Report also introduces a shift in educational focus, advocating for a transition from a singular emphasis on grades to the development of life skills, the cultivation of quality relationships, and active engagement within schools.
In 2013, the OSC proposed “A Society with Strong Families,” emphasizing the recognition of evolving family structures, and desire for a more progressive society where everyone would be treated fairly, irrespective of their sexual orientation or personal choices regarding marriage and parenthood.
In a parallel fashion, Forward SG in 2023 underscores the importance of supporting families at various life stages, promoting work-life balance, and providing assistance for both children and elderly family members.
Additionally, the 2013 OSC put forth a vision of a society where individuals can “Age with Dignity” in the company of loved ones while honouring the contributions of elders.
In the 2023 Forward SG report, this concept evolves into “Enabling Seniors to Age Well,” with an emphasis on promoting healthier ageing through a paradigm shift in Singapore’s healthcare system toward preventive care and community-based support.
The 2013 OSC also proposed perspectives such as “A Society That Takes Care of the Disadvantaged,” where strong social safety nets are complemented by a culture of volunteerism. Another perspective was “A Society with a Greater Sense of Togetherness,” which was expressed through a revival of the Kampong Spirit.
In a strikingly similar manner, the Forward SG report for 2023 includes proposals that call for empowering lower-income families, ensuring inclusive opportunities for individuals with disabilities, and underscores the importance of nurturing a robust culture of giving while reinforcing Singapore’s multiracialism and national identity.
In a touch of sarcasm, the Redditor humorously points out that the screenshots of both reports could almost be considered “the same picture.”
Overlooked 2013 OSC proposals
Contrastingly, the Redditor has discerningly highlighted a list of proposals from the 2013 “Our Singapore Conversation” (OSC) that seem to have been omitted or not prominently addressed in the 2023 Forward SG report:
A Singapore with a More Fulfilling Pace of Life
A Singapore with a Strong and Vibrant Economy
A Singapore that is Affordable to Live In
A Singapore for Singaporeans
A Society where Government and the People Have a More Collaborative Relationship
A Society Anchored on Values
A Singapore with a Competent and Trustworthy Government
Engaging citizens for 16 months, yet proposing the same ideas
In the discussion thread, several individuals ridiculed the striking similarities between the 2013 Our Singapore Conversation (OSC) and the recent Forward Singapore report.
Furthermore, several participants in the discussion conveyed their disappointment with the People’s Action Party (PAP) government, expressing that the party appears to lack fresh ideas to lead and inspire Singaporeans, especially considering the presentation of essentially the same proposals after a 16-month consultation period.
Some Redditors suggested that the 4G leaders might have “lost touch with reality,” as they observed the exclusion of some commendable proposals from the 2013 report, such as the call for “A Singapore with a Competent and Trustworthy Government.”
Contrasting 2013 OSC proposals with present-day realities
A Redditor starkly compares the proposals from the 2013 OSC report with the present reality faced by ordinary Singaporeans.
For instance, Despite aspirations for a More Fulfilling Pace of Life, spiralling costs and exorbitant COEs persist. Challenges persist in achieving Affordable Living in Singapore, as costs continue to escalate.
Hopes for a more collaborative relationship between the government and the people seem unfulfilled thus far. A society anchored on values is seen to be challenged, with the belief that societal values start from the top.
On the vision for a “Competent and Trustworthy Government”, the Redditor wrote: “The jokes write themselves”
Amidst the discussion, another Redditor sarcastically highlighted the government’s “consistent vision” aligned with ideas from a decade ago.
Responding to this, a user suggested that the 4G leadership likely recognizes that such consistency lacks inspiration, and implied that the attempt to reframe it as charting a new course is merely a facade, as the approach remains more of the same, which has proven ineffective or outdated.
Another comment brought attention to the absence of government transparency and accountability as key aspirations in the lists of proposals.
Our Singapore Conversation initiated following first GRC loss in GE2011
It’s noteworthy that the PAP government introduced the OSC initiatives in 2012, following their loss of the first Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to the Workers’ Party in GE2011, marking a significant shift in Singapore’s political landscape after the ruling party’s five decades in power.
The WP won Aljunied GRC with 54.7% of the votes, leading to the electoral defeat of prominent Foreign Minister George Yeo and second Cabinet Minister Lim Hwee Hua. This marked the first time that such high-ranking PAP cabinet ministers were unseated in post-independence Singapore.
In GE 2020, the PAP faced another defeat, this time in the newly delineated Sengkang GRC, as the Workers’ Party secured victory with 52.13% of the vote compared to the PAP’s 47.87%.
The PAP team, comprising prominent figures such as labour chief Ng Chee Meng, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, and lawyer Raymond Lye, garnered 55,214 votes, falling short of the 60,136 votes secured by the Workers’ Party.
Fast forward to the present time, the recent launch of Forward SG assumes particular significance, given the current economic challenges.
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.
Current circumstances suggest the likelihood of an accelerated political timeline.
During a press conference last Friday, when questioned by reporters about the significance of its current release, DPM Lawrence Wong clarified that the timing for the Singapore government to publish the Forward Singapore report holds “no significant implications.”
“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,” DPM Wong said.