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Focus on people in remaking Singapore

As we strive to remake Singapore, we should be mindful that the term “remaking Singapore” should not be reduced to just a slogan. The drive to remodel the republic should focus on people to meet the urgent needs of Singaporeans as well as take a far-sighted view to lay the foundation for our future. In my view, the following points should be considered.

  Firstly, it should promote a sense of humanity and come up with more ways to help the disadvantaged. “Living from hand to mouth” is indeed the experience of some weaker groups in society. For the elderly, for instance, it should not be a dream to be able to enjoy one's old age.

  The disadvantaged hope to have their voices heard. For them, leaders should not remember the need to speak Hokkien only during a general election. They should also not stress the importance of the Chinese language only in relation to hitching a ride from the China Juggernaut. Mastery of a language should not be a measure of one's social status. The purpose of knowing more languages is not to show off the advantages one enjoys over others, but to use the languages to serve the people well.

  Secondly, we should have long-term plans to continue to develop the Singapore brand name (Finland, a small country, for instance, is well-known because of Santa Claus)。 We should also be quick in identifying and adapting to changing trends. This instinct would have spared us the rush in switching to the biochemical industry when the manufacturing sector went into decline. We should be pro-active and not play catching up all the time.

  And even as we continue to pursue economic success and material comfort relentlessly, we should not postpone or neglect our spiritual or cultural development. We should play a leading role as the country with the highest quality of lifestyle in Asia. At the same time, we should be patient and meticulous in fostering our own culture and ensuring its transmission to the younger generations. We may even be able to export our culture.

  Thirdly, we should capitalise on our strengths, be innovative and creative, and forge a national identity that strikes a chord with the people.

  Singaporeans, especially the younger ones, should be familiar with our history. In order to value what we have achieved so far, they need to know how the pioneers had defended and helped create the Singapore of today. They should identify with Singapore instead of being bowled over by Japanese pop culture out of ignorance. Our future depends on young people who should not confine themselves to the island-state but should set their sights beyond Singapore.
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  To work towards creating a Singaporean identity, we have to listen to the voices of the “silent majority”。 Intellectuals also need to break free from the “tradition of maintaining silence”。 Heaping praises on our achievements and turning a blind eye to our shortcomings will not help us overcome our problems. In fact, it may well lead to our decline.

  Intellectuals can make constructive criticisms and suggest workable strategies. The process of remaking Singapore is a colossal task that should involve everyone. The inputs from Singaporeans who are creative and independent-thinking (or people who represent their interests) are more important than the “nanny” who has always taken care of almost everything.

  Besides, I hope justice can be tempered with mercy. Do not throw the book at people in the first instance, allow them the benefit of a kind and gentle reminder (this has to do with morality) instead of slapping them with a fine or Corrective Work Order. The purpose of strict enforcement of the law is to maintain an orderly society. But people should not become so fearful of breaking rules and regulations unwittingly that they refrain from exercising any initiative.

  In short, the remaking of Singapore should focus on people and create a Singapore that gives people a sense of belonging.

  (The writer is doing his Ph.D at the NUS. Translated by Yap Gee Poh.)

  改造新加坡:以人为本● 朱崇科改造新加坡不应只是一句标语口号,它应当既能实实在在地急民之所急,以人为本;又能高瞻远瞩,为光辉灿烂的未来形塑预设基点。

  一、发扬人道主义精神,真正更多为弱势群体着想。“手一停,口就停”作为一句本地俗语可谓道出了许多弱势群体的心声。“老有所终”不应该只是一个遥远的梦想。弱势群体希望他们的心声能被认真聆听,而不是到了大选之时才记得讲福建话,不是在搭中国经济的顺风车时才顺便想起了华语。

  语言不应该成为身分尊贵与否的判断标准,多语的优势不应只是炫耀,而应是踏踏实实为民服务的媒介。
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  二、新加坡不但要有灵活机动的眼光和随机应变的精神,还应当有打造长期品牌的计划(如圣诞老人品牌之于小国芬兰)。这样一来,才不会在制造业不景气乃至没落时才匆匆忙忙追逐生化。因为这样下去,我们永远不能超前知道我们下一阶段又该手忙脚乱地追什么。

  追求功利性、物质生活的同时,并不意味着精神生活可以暂时被搁置乃至忽略。新加坡不仅要引导亚洲一流的物质生活方式,更要精心、耐心熔铸本土文化传承与创新,甚至可以成为文化输出国。

  三、要革旧创新,扬长避短,共塑人民的新加坡。新加坡人(尤其是新一代的年轻人)要熟知自己的历史,深入了解前辈们为保卫、营建新加坡所付出的血汗,明白今日之来之不易。要塑造对新加坡的本土认同,而不是无知的一味追风逐“日”,更不能以岛国心态固步自封,因为年轻人就是新加坡的未来。

  要群策群力,共塑人民的新加坡,不仅要聆听“沉默的大多数”的心声,也要唤醒新加坡“沉默的知识分子传统”。因为单纯的溢美之词不能解决根本问题,一味粉饰太平恰恰正是某一统治江河日下的标志。

  知识分子应当可以利用自己的聪明才智出谋划策,也可以进行善意的批评,发出逆耳忠言。因为重塑是关系国计民生的大事,它更应该依赖具有独立思考能力和自由精神的国民(或他们利益的忠实代表)而不是时时处处为他们包办一切的保姆。

  我仍然希望新加坡更多一些善意的温情的提醒(属于道德层面),而不是冷冰冰动辄罚款XX元或在劳改法令下接受劳改的惩戒。严格执法的目的是为了营造良好的社会秩序,而不是举手投足之间都提心吊胆的物化羁绊。

  改造新加坡,要以人为本,打造人民的新加坡。


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