SINGAPORE – There is a high level of trust in Singapore because the Government has kept the commitment to honour its word, and people also honour one another, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Friday.
But this state of affairs can unravel easily, he added, cautioning against complacency.
For instance, if the income and wealth gap widens and people believe the system only benefits a few at the top, or if segments of the population feel their anxieties are not addressed, such as students who feel pigeon-holed or older workers who struggle to find a job, trust levels could plummet.
That is why the Government has embarked on the Forward Singapore exercise to examine all aspects of the social compact together with Singaporeans, said Mr Wong, who heads the exercise.
He was speaking at the Honour International Symposium, a biennial event, but it was last held four years ago because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Organised by Honour Singapore, a charity set up in 2014 to promote a culture of honour for the well-being of the nation, it featured discussions on how Singapore can succeed through “integration, innovation and involvement”.
Elaborating, the charity’s chairman, Mr Lim Siong Guan, said it was time to think about how different groups can contribute and how things can be done differently from the past. He also urged people to get involved, instead of just offering ideas for others to execute.
Mr Wong was among those who had heeded his call – some 25 years ago.
Sharing a little-known story, Mr Wong said his public service career almost did not happen.
As a young officer in the Ministry of Finance (MOF), he had not “found my calling” and was restless. So he accepted an offer with better job prospects and pay from the private sector.
But Mr Lim, then the Permanent Secretary at MOF, told Mr Wong to be patient, saying that he would be able to do things in the public service that cannot be done in the private sector.
“So I stayed on, and it has been 25 years since then – 15 years in civil service and 10 years in politics, said Mr Wong, of the meaningful work he has done that entailed working with Singaporeans on national policies.
“If not for Siong Guan, I probably would not have been here today.”
He added that he has experienced many crises in those 25 years, but none quite like the Covid-19 pandemic.