YSA organised a seminar on “The New Social Compact in Singapore” with a cross-section of the stakeholders of Singapore’s society on 9 July 2011.

The seminar came at an opportune time, given that recent developments in Singapore have shown that there has been a transformation in the social landscape, with implications on the social fabric of the country as well as on the political and economic fronts.

The seminar brought together four distinguished panelists from a cross-section of Singapore’s society. Representing the political incumbent was Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC, Mr Inderjit Singh, while Mr Pritam Singh, MP for Aljunied GRC, provided an alternative perspective on the new social compact in Singapore. The more than 150 participants, particularly young Singaporeans, also had the chance to hear independent views from another two sections of Singapore’s society that have an important role to play in the country’s social landscape. Mr Zakir Hussain, correspondent on the Political Desk of The Straits Times, provided his views from the perspective of a young Singaporean while Dr Tan Chi Chiu, Chairman, Lien Centre for Social Innovation at the Singapore Management University, evaluated the role that civil society has played in this transformation and its importance to Singapore’s society going forward.

Mr Inderjit said that the ruling party’s decision of “growth at all cost”, without paying closer attention on its socio-economic impact on the people, resulted in the loss of a significant number of votes for the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the recent election. He added that the policy to relax the entry of foreign workers and new citizens resulted in increased demand for flats and public transport, which added pressures on local infrastructure. He added that, “For the first time since I helped Mr Abdullah Tarmugi in Siglap in 1984, the last election had the most number of issues in a single election and this affected the confidence of the people in the ruling party, apart from the party having to face the challenges of the new media. Now after the election, we need change and I believe we can come back to a more comfortable zone”.

Mr Zakir opined that the voters who would vote against the PAP are young people who have developed new social compact (contract between people and the government). However, he added the old social compact, which consists of the older people, will still vote the PAP.

Mr Pritam explained that the new social compact has been around for many years now; it has been expressing itself more vocally in recent years. He added that it important to recognise this new social compact and to address the needs and concerns of Singaporeans.

According to Dr Tan, often politicians are not obstacles to the changes that need to be made; the civil service and administrative staff who often defend their policies. “For example, if a minister said that there are housing issues created by ’Built to Order’ scheme and asked his civil service officer to look into it, the civil service officer is likely to revert and say that there are no problems without making a thorough check, and ministers accept the view; so there is no change,”said Dr Tan.

In addition to Singaporeans, the seminar also saw the involvement of new citizens as participants. This provided them with an opportunity to share their views on the new social impact as well as provided a platform for a robust discussion with the panelists and other Singaporean participants. This is in line with the effort to integrate these new citizens into the larger Singapore community and part of the new social compact.

Among many other programmes, the Association has been organising regular seminars with a focus on national and international social and economic issues. These seminars identify issues of concern to young Singaporeans in particular and the Singapore society in general, and provide an important platform for the participants to examine and better understand these issues.

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