YAN’AN, Shaanxi: Addressing people’s aspirations for better lives is central to the role of governments, said Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
This is all the more so in a time of rapid change, higher aspirations and diverse needs.
DPM Teo made these comments at the opening of the seventh Singapore-China Forum on Leadership in the Chinese city of Yan’an on Sunday (Apr 14).
Inaugurated in 2009, the forum is a platform for political leaders and senior officials from both sides to exchange experiences related to leadership development.
“While we are guided by time-tested principles, we have to think creatively to design new policies and programmes that will meet the aspirations of our people as we enter into a new phase of our development journeys,” said DPM Teo.
One way that Singapore is doing this is by recognising that policies need to be constantly reviewed and improved.
“No policy is perfect or can last for all time,” said DPM Teo.
“Even if a policy is optimal at the point when it was introduced, its relevance and effectiveness might wane, or there could be unintended consequences over time.”
One example is in healthcare as people live longer and have more needs.
While the Singapore government has built more healthcare facilities, DPM Teo said the country is transforming its healthcare model to empower citizens to take greater responsibility for their health.
To better address people’s aspirations, the Singapore government also hopes to harness people’s ideas and develop future generations through programmes like SkillsFuture.
At the political level, DPM Teo said Singapore needs to develop a future generation of leaders ahead of time.
“This is why we have nurtured a strong team of 4th Generation leaders with a commitment to serve the people, and complementary skills and competencies, as well as diverse backgrounds and viewpoints,” said DPM Teo.
“Stable political leadership is the foundation that allows us to forge a common vision, execute long-term plans and share the benefits of growth.”
DPM Teo added the importance of forming strong links among a new generation of leaders is why he brought a large delegation of political office holders and senior public officers to take part in the forum.
Ministers Chan Chun Sing and Grace Fu, Senior Ministers of State Dr Janil Puthucheary and Edwin Tong, as well as Senior Parliamentary Secretaries Sun Xueling and Tan Wu Meng are accompanying DPM Teo on the trip.
“We need to constantly expose our future leaders to new ideas, give them opportunities to learn from the experiences of others, and to make friends with future leaders from around the region and the world,” said DPM Teo.
“This is why platforms like the Singapore-China Forum on Leadership have such an enduring importance.”
DPM Teo said the forum has become a premier platform of bilateral cooperation, with both countries having a long history of close friendship tracing back to the foundation laid by then paramount Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in the 1970s.
“The close partnership between our countries has continued to deepen from generation to generation,” said DPM Teo.
He added Singapore has hosted three of China’s top leaders last year, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Singapore President Halimah Yacob has also accepted Chinese President Xi Jinping’s invitation to visit China later this year.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is also visiting China later this month for the Belt and Road Forum.
SINGAPORE WILL PLAY CONSTRUCTIVE ROLE: CHAN CHUN SING
Also speaking at the forum, Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing highlighted the importance of being a constructive member of the international community.
He added that Singapore’s success depends on the stability of the global system.
“We believe all countries – big or small – have a part to play to contribute towards this,” said Mr Chan.
“We will continue to work closely with like-minded countries to uphold the global trading system, multilateral institutions, and a rules-based global order.”
Mr Chan said even though Singapore is a small country, it will play a constructive role where possible.
Some examples of this include – hosting Mr Deng to his first official visit to Singapore in 1978, to explore ideas for China’s opening up.
Last year, Singapore also hosted the first summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
Mr Chan said Singapore will continue to encourage exchanges between Singapore and China in order to deepen the trust and bonds with each other.