Sunday, June 29, 2014

Notes from Stanley - Sustainable Singapore; A product of interplay between Community Activism and Sound Policies

The President’s Address 2014 has been an affirmative and optimistic statement of what our government is seeking to achieve, making the firm promise to improve the lives of Singaporeans. I am pleased that our national leaders have taken constructive steps towards listening to the plea of Singaporeans, and have created or refined policies to meet the constantly changing needs of our country.

As a youth who had just entered working life, one of the greatest concerns my peers and I have typically revolve around finding stable jobs that provide us with competitive salaries and growth opportunities. Fortunately for us, we were born in a generation blessed with the resources, education and opportunities to make informed decisions on our own accord. To put it simply, we can ask ourselves what kind of lives do we want and select a career that suits us best. Ultimately, regardless of any misfortune which befall us, we can be assured that there will always be at least be a roof over our heads, and basic necessities that are provided for or subsidized by the nation. 

However, we have often forgotten how sheltered we are from the struggles experienced by Singapore’s pioneers, who were devoid of the resources which we now possess. To even aspire for a better future for themselves or their families was a farfetched dream. Having the assurance and wealth of a country that would be able to meet most Singaporeans’ needs was simply unthinkable at that time too! Therefore, it is certainly appropriate that our pioneers be rewarded for their valiant efforts in creating this country of possibilities, and their utmost right to reap what they have rigorously sowed. 

Nonetheless, amidst the new policies introduced in improving the lives of citizens, I am constantly apprehensive and concerned about the possibilities of our youths and nation developing a sense of entitlement -an insidious venom in the heart of any nation that wishes to progress. 

As a nation, if we constantly expect the government to provide solutions to every societal problem, we would inevitably be paralyzed by the lack of effort which the community (The common folk in the neighborhood) ought to provide. In every nation, the leaders and followers should always work towards a mutual goal and not be segregated. In order to bring Singapore to greater heights, our citizens should see our government as an organization which does not have solutions for everything, but rather be an activist and build a community of solution makers and feedback providers. We need to assist our government in planning and developing good policies, as well as executing such policies to make the lives of our community better!

Also, apart from communicating our needs, we have to acknowledge that scarcity exists. The limited supply of resources is unable to cater to the unlimited demands of the citizens.  Thus, in the hope of driving positive sustainable changes, Singapore requires collaborative efforts of both the grassroot leaders, as well as our citizens to create sustainable improvements to the community.

Learning from the financial woes of the European countries, I have realized that a nation has to work on the sustainability of all policies; populist and welfare, to prevent ourselves from being trapped in a vicious cycle stemmed by an unyielding sense of entitlement. As such, while we are all ambitious of increasingly better policies to alleviate the negative consequences of the rising living costs, prudency should always be our top priority. Also, we need to ensure that concrete steps are taken to progressively attain the ultimate goal that we are all aiming for. As much as I do applaud Singaporeans for having developed a respectable working culture of striving and pursuing our own paths of success, we ought to know that the nation is not responsible for our well-being merely due to the existence of welfare policies.

Last but not least, I believe that the role of the ASPIRE committee is paramount to the success of our nation’s progress and that we provide Singaporeans with multiple platforms to succeed while we constantly improve on the education system. We have to ensure that students who are less academically inclined do not fall through the cracks. Instead, I agree with the President’s stance on the importance of creating more alternative pathways for citizens to pursue better education and careers. As a late bloomer myself, I have travelled the route of a Polytechnic education and subsequently went on to achieve a degree. Through this educational path, I have seen how a vocational education provides a more suited learning environment that allowed me to hone my strengths and discover my talents in a way that differs drastically from what was provided by Junior Colleges. I have also had the privilege to meet many of my polytechnic’s alumni who have attained remarkable progress in their respective careers despite not having a degree. Thus, while we strive to allow the majority of our youths to be self-sufficient, and ultimately enjoy greater employability and income, we should not downplay the importance of the assistance that ITE and Polytechnic students require. 

In conclusion, I hope that the Singapore parliament and citizens alike, will not be complacent about the policies established, but stay critical and constructive towards the improvements we have to make in our policies to help ensure that no one gets left behind.

Mr Stanley Chia
REACH Supervisory Panel Member
Managing Director, Envisage Education Pte Ltd
Vice-President, SingYouth Hub

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