Nov 19, 2012

Singapore - Be careful of wanting slower growth: Vivian Balakrishnan

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SINGAPORE: Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has warned about wanting slower growth for Singapore in the hope that social inequality might be reduced.

He said if the country does not seize growth opportunities, it could mean fewer and poorer quality jobs for people.

Dr Balakrishnan was asking Singaporeans to think carefully about what they want for their future, in a dialogue with residents on Sunday.

Should Singapore hold on to the values which brought the nation to where it is today?

Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan posed this question to Bukit Panjang residents in the ongoing National Conversation.

He said the rapidly evolving global landscape means values in Singapore are also changing.

But the anchor, he suggested, is a fair and just society, so Singaporeans should have their chance to speak up.

Issues raised by residents at the session included overcrowding on public transportation, the adequacy of healthcare facilities, and stress brought about by the education system.

Some also suggested solutions to the problems.

"Subsequently, what the government is going to follow up on these issues are what I would be very concerned about," said resident Alice Lo.

"Because we don't want it to be empty talk, (with) no action or no follow up."

Dr Balakrishnan said there is good reason for Singaporeans to be anxious about the future, as the country is facing intense global competition not witnessed before.

He added that people have to be equipped through education, to take on the jobs of tomorrow.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "The fact that the changes are occurring so rapidly is very unsettling for many of us. So that's the backdrop behind the anxiety which we can feel on the ground. It's important that the conversation, however, leads to a positive conclusion and brings us forward."

Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore has to ensure its family structures and social safety nets are ready, for a future where the population is ageing and communal relations may not be as strong as before.

- CNA/xq

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