What are the key global trends in policy development? How relevant are these trends to Singapore? How has the government responded to these trends? How important is the role of citizen participation in policy development? What type of relationship exists between the government and people in Singapore? What should the people expect from their participation in policy development?

These are some of the questions that Mr Ong Keng Yong, Ambassador-at-Large, and Director of the Institute of Policy Studies, addressed at a public lecture on “Engaging the Citizens in Policy Development” organised by Young Sikh Association (Singapore) on 16 May 2009 at the Pod (National Library Building).

Mr Ong stated that there are three global key trends in policy development. Firstly, policy development has become more complex, with policymakers having to assess a diverse range of issues before formulating policies. Secondly, people’s trust in the government has declined. Thirdly, as result of the first two factors, there is far greater interaction between the government and the people today. He added that, fortunately, the trust level in Singapore is high, with the people believing that the government will deliver on its promises.

Mr Ong further stated that Singapore leaders spend much time reaching out and interacting with the people through a variety of platforms such as meet-the-people sessions, estate walkabout, and feedback and dialogue sessions. Also, various non-government organisations, through such platforms as this lecture, also contribute to the feedback to the government.

Singaporeans, Mr Ong feels, should make full and relevant use of these platforms, and focus on the key issues. Otherwise, they lose an important opportunity to articulate their views to the government. Secondly, Singaporeans should not expect all their ides and suggestions to be accepted by the government. It is not possible for the government to implement all the suggestions it receives. Singaporeans, therefore, should not be disappointed or disheartened. Instead they should take this their strides and continue to offer their views.

Entitled the Sixth Khwaish Lecture (Khwaish means “Aspirations” or “Hope” in Punjabi, the lecture fits in well with YSA’s mission of creating world-ready young Singaporeans, enhancing mutual understanding of issues of common concern and fostering friendships across ethnic groups so that young Singaporeans continue to remain engaged with the rest of Singapore society and the global community.

Under this Khwaish Lecture initiative, YSA invites eminent and distinguished personalities to speak on local and international affairs. It hopes to provide the platform for young Singaporeans to gain a further understanding of local, regional and global issues and developments.

The sixth lecture was supported by the Lee Foundation, Singapore Totalisator Board, Singapore Pools, and a Youth Development Fund grant from the National Youth Council.

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