The proceedings from IPS’ flagship conference, Singapore Perspectives 2011 (SP 2011) have just been published. The conference theme was Our Inclusive Society: Going Forward. Convened in January 2011 before the May 2011 General Elections (GE), discussions at SP 2011 were indicative of the changes occurring in Singapore’s society. Former Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Mr Wong Kan Seng graced the conference as Guest of Honour and his keynote address is in this publication. Panelists and discussants at SP 2011, who have contributed to this publication, were drawn from government, the arts, academia, business, civil society and political parties. Over three panel sessions, they focused on the themes ‘Global City’, ‘Caring Community’, ‘Singapore Spirit’. This year, a special session featured prominent leaders in both community building initiatives at home and voluntarism for humanitarian work in the region as well.
SP 2011 took stock of the health of Singapore society after decades of pursuit for economic growth, and contributors examined some of the tradeoffs with regard to social inclusiveness, community ties, and national identity. In this publication, they share their views of whether it is possible for Singapore to develop into a global city that is still an endearing home with a soul – one which attracts global talent and business, but also takes care of the welfare of those who may be neglected and under-served in our rapidly changing economy. While Singapore may appear to have developed the trappings of a First World City with sophisticated new complexes like the integrated resorts (IRs), are Singaporeans contented and better off with such developments? Fulfilling the aspirations of Singaporeans would also mean enhancing social mobility that would help bridge the widening disparity between the “haves and have nots” in our society. Hence conference discussions laid emphasis on inclusive growth so that no one is left behind as Singapore strives for greater economic development and growth.
‘Bread and butter’ issues which featured prominently at SP 2011 alluded to the growing inequality in our society. Other issues discussed resonated with ‘hot button’ topics in the May GE such as immigration, community bonding, and how to improve society’s inclusiveness towards economically and physically disadvantaged Singaporeans. Contributors highlighted ways in which more resources and manpower in the community can be mobilised not just efficiently, but empathetically to give active service to those who have the least, and understand their needs. Singapore is also an ageing population and needs to attract immigrants to supplement its own population growth. How do Singaporeans accommodate new citizens within our social fabric? Greater diversity brings challenges but enriches our society with the infusion of more skills, knowledge and experiences. With creativity and good humour, both ‘old’ and ‘new’ citizens offered their insights into what constitutes, and can continue to nurture the Singapore Spirit.
For contributing speakers and participants alike at SP 2011, it was obvious that while Singapore’s society is maturing and facing economic, social and political change, a rebalancing or recalibration of expectations and needs has to be accommodated. We hope that this volume from SP 2011 will be a welcome addition for anyone interested in understanding the complex changes and shifting “ground” sentiments in Singapore’s society.
The next Singapore Perspectives conference will be held on 16 January 2012 and will focus on bridging the possible divides in our society.
Singapore Perspectives 2011 covers the following:
Foreword by Team SP2011
Section I: Our Inclusive Society Going Forward
Welcome Remarks by IPS Director Ong Keng Yong
Keynote Address by Wong Kan Seng
Section II: Global City
Between nation-state and global city by Derek da Cunha, independent scholar
Singapore as a Global City: A Balancing Act by Sylvia Lim, Member of Parliament, Aljunied GRC
I …Singaporean by T. Sasitharan, co-founder and director, Theatre Training and Research Programme, Republic Polytechnic
Discussant Notes by Ong Ye Kung, Assistant Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress
Section III: Caring Community
We Do Care … Or Do We? by T Raja Segar, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Indian Development Association
Including the Disadvantaged in a Meritocratic Singapore: Past, Present and Future by Denise Phua, President, Autism Resource Centre (Singapore)
Theatre is a Language by Kok Heng Luen, Artistic Director, Drama Box Ltd
Discussant Notes by T K Udairam, Chief Executive Officer, Changi General Hospital
Section IV: Singapore Spirit
Singapore Spirit: An Immigrant Perspective by Ori Sasson, founder and Chief Executive Officer, Simulation Software & Technology
The Singapore Spirit is not a Pontianak! by Woffles Wu, Plastic Surgeon, Woffles Wu Aesthetic Surgery and Laser Centre Singapore
Localism versus Globalism by Janadas Devan
Discussant Notes by Lai Ah Eng, Senior Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore
Section V: Special Session
People’s Association by Lim Boon Heng, Deputy Chairman, People’s Association
Mercy Relief by Hassan Ahmad, Executive Director, Mercy Relief
Section VI: Special Session
Closing remarks: Living and Breathing ‘Singapore’ by Gillian Koh