The prorogation of Parliament offers Members an opportunity to ponder how to take forward what the nation has achieved over the past 2½ years. In the first half of its current term, Parliament hosted debates on issues key to Singapore’s future and close to citizens’ hearts, from population and ministerial salaries to helping the elderly and low income.
Legislative radicalism, reminiscent of the early years of Independence, produced a raft of policies that demonstrated state activism on social and economic fronts. Among them are the Pioneer Generation Package for elderly first-generation Singaporeans and the Wage Credit Scheme for the Government to fund wage increases for Singaporean workers. Vigorous debate attested to Parliament’s role as the voice of the people, particularly vulnerable Singaporeans who must remain part of the national mainstream even as the economy evolves and society changes.
The second half of Parliament’s term will give the Government time to implement or fine-tune major policies to check social stratification and improve the quality of life generally. A Straits Times poll, whose results were released recently, reveals greater public confidence in the Government’s handling of housing, ageing, the poor and health-care issues. However, there is lingering dissatisfaction over transport and foreign workers. This represents a palpable change of mood from the 2001 General Election, when a range of issues soured parts of the electoral ground for the ruling People’s Action Party. Legislative activism must help sustain the pace of reformative change that has been the Government’s hallmark since the 2011 polls.
Yet, even as the state embraces more socially equitable policies, citizens cannot afford to forget that the world remains an inegalitarian and dangerous place. The latest phase of globalisation, in which the economic centre of gravity is moving towards Asia, is promising for Singapore, but only if it remains competitive. China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia are among countries gifted with both large populations and abundant natural resources; city-state Singapore can depend only on the resourcefulness of its people. Nor can it assume that geopolitical realities will remain in its favour indefinitely. Russia’s annexation of Crimea taught Ukraine a sharp lesson in the disparities of power. Similarly, Singapore cannot rely on the goodwill of others.
The country needs a people and leadership united in purpose to navigate the way forward to create a better society for all. Parliament, as the highest deliberative body of the land, must ensure the aspirations of Singaporeans are expressed in policies adopted.