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Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at the Launch of the Forward Singapore Festival on 27 October 2023

27 Oct 2023
My Cabinet and 4G Colleagues

Secretary-General of NTUC

Forward SG participants and stakeholders

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.   I am very happy to join all of you this morning to celebrate this important milestone as we publish the Forward Singapore Report and also launch the Forward Singapore Festival.

2.   We launched the Forward Singapore exercise in June last year because we recognised that Singapore was at a critical inflection point or a prime moment of change as you have heard in the video just now.

     a. We are entering a different world. Unfortunately, it is also a more dangerous world because we can see a shift from an era of benign globalisation that we saw in the last 30 years to now a period of great power competition and rising global disorder.

     b. We are facing tougher domestic challenges, from inequality to a rapidly ageing population. All this can easily pull us apart as a society, create more divisions and polarisations in Singapore and cause our social compact to fray.

     c. That is why we felt last year that there was a need to take stock, pause, reflect, consider how we can chart our new way forward together. What changes should we make? What big moves do we take together as a country in order to navigate this new environment?

3.   Over the last 16 months, more than 200,000 Singaporeans came forward to share their aspirations, their perspectives and views.

     a. Each of you here played an active role.

     b. Many gave your ideas and suggestions in our engagement sessions.

     c. Some went further than that. You participated in smaller group workshops and Citizens’ Panels. You submitted detailed reports with very useful recommendations. We received many reports from many groups, students, community groups, including NTUC, which mounted a very massive exercise engaging workers called the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations.

     d. The Forward SG Report we have just released is a distillation of all your views and perspectives. This is not a top-down government agenda. This is very much a shared consensus, a co-created roadmap for our next bound of nation-building.

     e. In short, Forward Singapore would not have been possible without all for your contributions and efforts. So this morning, on behalf of my team, I would like to say a very big thank you to all of you. Thank you very much!

4.   All of you here are just a sampling of the more than 200,000 people who took part in this exercise. The big question in our various engagements was: what is the Singapore we want for the future? Put another way: what is our Singapore Dream?

     a. There was a time when the focus was on the 5Cs: condo, car, cash, credit card, country club membership.

     b. Everyone was talking about it. Today, we no longer talk so much about the 5Cs.

     c. To be clear, we still want a good life. There are genuine concerns about issues like housing and cost of living which the Government is focusing on to address.

     d. But from our engagements, it is also clear the Singapore Dream is more than just material success – it is also about fulfilment, meaning and purpose in what we do.

5.   What then are the new elements in our Singapore Dream?

6.   First, based on our conversations and engagements, we believe it will be Vibrant and Inclusive

     a. Vibrant because we want to ensure that they have continued opportunities for Singaporeans to get good jobs, to enjoy better living standards over time.

     b. Inclusive because the opportunities are not just for a few; they are certainly not limited to those with university degrees, or those who fit into a certain conventional mold.

     c. We want equal opportunities for all Singaporeans, regardless of your background or your educational pathway or career choices.

     d. In other words, we must truly embrace learning beyond grades; we must respect and reward every job; we must value every worker for who they are, and what they do, especially those who do the essential work that we all rely on.

7.   Second, it will be Fair and Thriving.

     a. We recognise the stresses and strains that people face on a day-to-day basis.

     b. We want to be a society where Singaporeans can be better assured of their basic needs through every life stage where everyone can flourish and thrive.

     c. And changes will be needed to achieve this.

      i. So that we can have an environment that is truly conducive for all families – those with children and seniors, as well as persons with disabilities to look after; and also to take better care and support our caregivers themselves.

      ii. To take care of our growing number of seniors – their health, their living environment, and also their retirement needs.

      iii. And to enable workers who face setbacks to bounce back stronger; to empower the lower-income groups to take greater ownership of their circumstances, even as we do more to uplift them.

     d. There are changes we have in mind. We have in mind a series of policy moves to address all of these issues. They will require a lot more resources and Government spending, and we are prepared to do so; but we will have to design the policies and implement them carefully, with more help given to those with less.

8.   Third, it will be Resilient and United.

     a. Because it will not be possible for the Government alone to do everything through policy changes.

     b. Nor is it possible for any individual to succeed on his or her own efforts alone.

     c. We should look not just to our own success, but also to the success of others. Those who have done well should do more to uplift those with less, be it through financial donations, or through offering their time and expertise – to volunteer, mentor, and support those in need.

     d. The bottom line is that we are much stronger when we work together. We truly achieve success only when we succeed together as a society and as a country.

     e. We must harness our collective efforts and energies, to build a stronger sense of identity, solidarity and unity. So that we are more resilient amidst adversity, so that we can build a better Singapore together – not just for today, but also for tomorrow. These are the key ingredients in what we want the future Singapore to be. A more vibrant, a more equal and a more united country.

9.   That is why I firmly believe the refreshed Singapore Dream is less about I, me, and mine; it is more about we, us, and ours.

     a. It is recognising that we are not left to fend for ourselves; but that we are all in this together.

     b. That what we have in this tiny little island of Singapore, while not perfect, is really nothing short of a miracle.

     c. After all, if Singapore were to falter, no one will come to our rescue.

     d. In the end, it is up to all of us here in Singapore – be it the Government, employers, community groups, families and individuals – all of us as Singaporeans, to keep this miracle going for as long as we can.

10.   While we have completed the Forward SG exercise, our journey into our next bound of nation building really has just started.

     a. The road ahead will not be easy.

     b. But we can take heart from what we have been through so far together.

     c. As a nation, we have experienced many challenges over the decades, many crises, including the last three years of tackling Covid-19 together.

     d. Each time we face a crisis, each time we have hunkered down, worked together, and emerged stronger – we have consistently turned our challenges into opportunities; our vulnerabilities into strength.

11.   We have done it before, and we can do it again.

     a. Forward SG provides a roadmap to chart our way forward in this new unknown future.

     b. My team and I will continue to engage widely with all Singaporeans in navigating this future and this way forward.

      i. You have seen us do this throughout this last 16 months in the Forward SG exercise.

      ii. We will continue this same approach as a leadership team.

      iii. Because we want to create more avenues for citizen participation, more opportunities for co-creation, and ultimately, we want to work with one and all to find solutions that are in the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans.

12.   That is why today we are also launching the Forward Singapore Festival. We are not just marking a milestone to complete the exercise and put out a report, but we are also launching what we call a Forward Singapore Festival.

     a. It is a series of roadshows starting today, but it will move around to different heartland areas in the weeks to come.

     b. We hope this will give everyone in Singapore the chance to see the future roadmap that we have all conceived together.

     c. Importantly, we want to encourage many more Singaporeans to come on board to participate and join us in translating our ideas and our ideals into concrete action and results.

13.   To conclude, we have a full agenda ahead of us.

     a. We have achieved much in Singapore, but we have lots to do, and many more exciting chapters of the Singapore Story to write.

     b. We look forward to walking this journey with every Singaporean, and working with all of you to build our shared future together! Thank you very much.