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Minister Lawrence Wong's Opening Remarks at The Singapore Model Parliament Closing Dialogue, on 26 June 2021

26 Jun 2021
Good afternoon everyone. I'm very happy to join you today at this final day of the Singapore Model Parliament. 

Over the past week, I believe all of you have been attending workshops to better understand the process of policymaking, and also our parliamentary system. And through these workshops, as well as by speaking to other Members of Parliament, I'm sure you would have now gained a better appreciation of the work that goes into being a parliamentarian. You would better understand how citizens’ feedback are incorporated in the policymaking process, how policymakers in government have to balance between difficult trade-offs, and how policies are debated in Parliament. 

And I trust that one of your key takeaways is that issues are often not as straightforward as they may seem on the surface. Very often, you will have to view the issues from very different perspectives, weigh the options carefully, and actively engage the public on their views, feedback and suggestions. So policymaking is really a dynamic process. You have to take into account contexts, present circumstances and realities, and because these things are fluid and keep on changing, policies are continuously being reviewed and updated over time. 

The topics you have highlighted are important ones, especially during this period of COVID-19. The pandemic obviously has caused massive disruption around the world, not just countries everywhere but also in Singapore. And within Singapore itself, the impact of the pandemic, we know has not been felt evenly across different segments of our society. The lower-income groups would tend to bear a larger proportion of the burden. And that's why there are specific issues we are now studying – how can we strengthen our social compact in Singapore, how can we continue to provide support for the more disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, including to take care of their mental wellbeing, and ultimately, how can we emerge from this pandemic as a stronger and more united society. And there is work progressing on all of these different fronts. For example, for mental health, we have convened the COVID-19 Mental Wellness Taskforce to look at the psycho-social impact of the pandemic on our people, and we are developing more resources and frameworks to better equip our agencies and the community, to support efforts to improve mental wellbeing. For those whose jobs and businesses have been impacted, we have been extending them support, for example in the form of the Jobs Support Scheme, as well as through rebates and subsidies, directed in particular to the disadvantaged groups, to our local SMEs. For example, for workers who are keen to upskill and reskill, or to pivot to other industries, we have been providing support to them through SkillsFuture credits, and as well as corresponding payroll support to their employers. This is not only for the immediate term but also to facilitate the longer-term transformation of our workforce. 

More importantly, COVID-19 has shown that we are stronger when we stand together and united. There is no doubt that the pandemic has added new stresses and strains for all of us. We've all had to make adjustments in our daily lives, and from time to time, we do see some unhappy incidents being highlighted, especially when these stresses bring about conflicts or frictions in our relationships. But we have also seen the best of Singaporeans throughout the pandemic. Volunteers going the extra mile to reach out to those who are impacted. We have seen our frontline workers and many unsung heroes, doing their part, and making tremendous sacrifices to keep everyone in Singapore safe. And it is this sense of solidarity and togetherness that will enable us to overcome this crisis, and any future challenges that may lie ahead.

So, let's also continue to find ways to strengthen this sense of cohesion in Singapore. Let's continue to engage different groups, and not just to push our own points of view but to listen with openness and humility. Let's continue to seek to find common ground and make genuine attempts to bridge the gap with those who think differently from us. And that means we cannot be too quick to judge or force our views on others, but we must listen with empathy, and be prepared to consider different points of view. That's how we can achieve unity in diversity, and draw on our diverse perspectives and ideas to achieve better outcomes for everyone in Singapore. 

For all of these issues, the Government will do its part, but it cannot just be about government efforts alone. We can, and we must all do our part too. So, I strongly encourage all of you to step forward and think about how you can shape the Singapore you want to see in the future. And that means you continue to participate in different forums to share your views and your suggestions on policies, to look around your community and neighbourhood to see where you can do something that will make a difference, or even to start ground-up initiatives that would support the more vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our society. And when you view issues that you see in the media, I hope you use your experience in this programme to put yourself in the shoes of the policymaker, reflect on the many different perspectives that Singaporeans may hold, and what considerations will need to be weighed, in reaching a decision. 

So to conclude, I hope your experience at this Singapore Model Parliament has inspired all of you to lead conversations on the type of Singapore you want to have, and to look more deeply at the different considerations that go into any policy. More importantly, I encourage all of you to find ways to take action and create a better Singapore for yourself and your generation, but also for the generations to come. Remember every Singaporean has a stake in this place, especially all of you, who will continue building Singapore for the future. With that, I look forward to hearing your views and the dialogue that we will have soon. Thank you very much.