Saturday, August 17, 2013

Active Citizenry Goes Beyond Sharing Ideas

As Our Singapore Conversation wraps up, there has been heightened discussion about the merits of greater public participation in the policy-making process. The recent VoicesTODAY episode, “Are citizens ready for more say in policy-making?”, revolved around this issue.
I believe that greater public participation leads to better-crafted policies and better outcomes for society. But we must probe deeper and ask what sort of participation we desire.
Would it be limited to representing problems clearly to the Government in the hope that it would solve the problems? Or would it also encompass the understanding that we, as a community, also have the potential for impact and the will to act?
Clearly, from the support for the OSC, Singaporeans are keen to share their input with the Government. While this is positive, it is disappointing to note the muted discussion on what the community can do to improve Singapore.
There is great scope for citizens in realising our collective dreams. Building a society with a greater sense of togetherness was identified during the OSC as a shared aspiration.
Singaporeans could help foster a more inclusive society on many fronts: Teachers could organise events that bring together students from varying schools to work on common community involvement projects; public housing dwellers could come together to involve cleaners in festivities.
The possibilities are limitless. All of us can play a direct, constructive role in building a better Singapore. While the Government is a dominant force in shaping our nation’s destiny, individuals can be pivotal, too.
Even as the conversation between the Government and public gets less intense with the wrapping up of the OSC, it is important that we deepen the conversation on how the community can drive progress.
Former United States President John F Kennedy’s clarion call for service, in his 1961 Inaugural Address, is worth reflecting upon: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Note: This article was published on Today on 19th August 2013.