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Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014

Singapore

ESM Goh warns against rift between people and Govt

The New Paper on Sunday | Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014

ESM Goh Chok Tong (centre) sing birthday's song together with the residents at a National Day dinner for his Marine Parade GRC.

Marine Parade National Day dinner

Is the bond between people and Government being loosened in Singapore? Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said yesterday that this is a worry, as Singapore faced a critical "crossroads".

This bond is crucial for a country's success, he said, along with three other factors - having good leaders, good governance and social cohesion.

Speaking at the Marine Parade National Day dinner, Mr Goh shared his reflection on why some countries succeed and others fail. He drew a parallel between parenting and governing.

"We do not criticise our parents for their imperfections. We love them, warts and all," he said.

"But we see only warts in the Government and freely criticise it for its slightest mistakes or when we disagree with it. This state of relationship between the people and the Government is part of the so-called New Normal."

He then added this warning: "But if this New Normal leads to fractiousness, divisiveness and estrangement in the Singapore Family, then we will be undoing what the Pioneer Generation had painfully and diligently built over many decades."

In the past, he saw a greater unity of purpose among Singaporeans. But now, people are pulling in different directions.

"We still discuss and debate, consult and engage. But each group is now more assertive than before in pushing its point of view and vested interests. Each side does not want to give an inch without taking a quarter," he said. "The common space for Singaporeans is getting smaller instead of bigger."

And there will be a high price to pay because that is how countries end up with political gridlock, lurching from crisis to crisis.

To avoid that, Singaporeans need to band together, with Government and people doing their part.

"The Government must pass the demanding parental test, which is to help the next generation succeed to the best of their capabilities.

But the next generation, too, must pass the family test in building on what they have inherited. They must demand as much of themselves as they do of the Government," he said.

This article was published on Aug 17 in The New Paper.

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