Oct 14, 2012

Singapore - Imagining Singapore in 10 years' time

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SINGAPORE: A Singapore without the Maintenance of Parents Act, identity cards without "race" information, and a Lions team that can win the World Cup were some of the news headlines Singaporeans said they wanted to see in 2022.

Over 60 people joined the first citizens dialogue organised by Our Singapore Committee (OSC), tasked with driving a national conversation about the future of Singapore.

The four-hour dialogue on Saturday morning saw participants from different backgrounds and age groups sharing personal stories and imagining stories for a Singapore in 10 years' time.

"Basically this new identity card (has no) race (classification like) Chinese, Malay, Indian... but rather, just Singaporean," said student Jordan Tan.

Thirty-five-year-old social entrepreneur Kuik Shiao Yin said: "We want to see Singapore become the sexiest silver city of 2022, where in 10 year time, you won't hear Singaporeans complaining about the senior activity centre that's being set up."

The participants, aged 19 to 69, included full-time national servicemen, students, retirees, taxi drivers and businessmen.

They were either invited to the session, or had signed up to participate in the dialogue.

Organisers said the open-ended approach allows ideas to surface from the ground up, before specific themes and issues are picked for more focused discussions.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, who chairs the 26-member Our Singapore Committee, also turned up to listen in on the conversations.

He said this first phase of the national conversation is deliberately kept open-ended and unstructured, to encourage free discussion among Singaporeans.

Mr Heng said: "This is not a top down process, this is a more bottom up process. And it is important for Singaporeans to not only to speak their minds but also to hear from fellow Singaporeans."

Many participants told Channel NewsAsia they liked how the session allowed them to hear a variety of views, but they also had suggestions on how to improve the process.

Noorul Fatha As'art, a 33-year-old doctor, said: "Certain broad themes have come up - how to make Singaporeans more gracious, how to make Singaporeans more forgiving, how can we be more integrated as a society... I think these are very deep issues that need to be discussed and perhaps we could have them in smaller discussions."

Twenty-four-year-old Hazirah Mohamad, a post-graduate student, said: "I appreciated the openness of the secretariat and the space that was given to us to express our emotions or how we felt about certain policies and issues. I think even if the direction is not yet solidified, they are open to hearing what Singaporeans have to say."

Commenting on the issues raised at the dialogue, Mr Heng said he found the first session a constructive one.

"I think on one hand, Singaporeans would like to make progress to continue to do well to excel in certain areas, but at the same time, I also sense a strong desire to build a more caring and gracious inclusive society. And those, I think, reflect important changes in our value system over the years."

Mr Heng said the committee will hold about 30 dialogue sessions until the first quarter of next year before identifying emerging themes for the second phase of the exercise.

- CNA/cc

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