Think-tank Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) launched its Future50 (F50) program in 2013. It set up the F50 series of forums and conversations and invited members of the public to join in. The Report collected key ideas expressed by panelists and participants who attended these public lectures.
Two years on, right on the dot, SG50 and all that, the international and domestic dialogues and research have been completed. The Future50 Report was launched at one final public lecture two weeks ago. I had no time to look at the Report till the lecture itself. Hurriedly flipped through it. Had to read it thoroughly later on. (Download Report from its website.)
The Future50 Report holds five parts: Part 1 Geopolitical Dynamics and Security Risks - Particularly in Asia; Part 2 Global Economic Shifts, New Financial Centres, and Capital Flows; Part 3 The Evolution of Social Compacts - Past and Future; Part 4 What Kind of Singaporeans Do We Want?; Part 5 Sustainability and Liveablility in Singapore and the Region.
|An extract from Page 30 of the Report in its Conclusion.|
At the launch of the Future50 Report, the first segment saw a conversation with Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Tan Chuan Jin, moderated by Associate Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the SIIA. The Future50 Report sought to examine,
“The 50 Year Future for Singapore in Asia and the World”, exploring geopolitical, economic, social and environmental trends that could affect the nation.
Questions were taken from the floor, and while not exactly fully answered, they weren't glossed over either. A few were tackled head-on, even on the matter of whether it was time to remove the category of 'race' in our national identity cards. I also wondered if we could remove race from every other sort of forms and application and leave that intact in the NRICs or FINs. Data-mining and the 'classification' of races could be done differently. Some of my work projects keep compartmentalizing Singaporeans and residents into 'C-M-I-O'. I truly HATE that, and I say it. The 'O' in 'C-M-I-O' stands for 'Others' and that sounds terrible. Children of mixed marriages or parentage should have a choice of identifying with both parents' cultures instead of following one, usually the father's in a 'traditional' manner. Imho, that's one tradition that doesn't have to be adhered to.
The second segment comprised a panel of two co-Directors of the F50 program Dr Parag Khanna and SIIA Executive Director and Senior Fellow Mr Nicholas Fang, and a third academic Dr Cherian George. The three shared their thoughts on the Report. That was on the assumption that the audience had kinda scanned it. :p It was also very nice to hear Dr George speak his thoughts on the future of the country too. It's evident that most people aren't particularly worried about foreign relations and economic security. It's almost like we know we can tackle all challenges, and what's uppermost in our minds- our social construct.
Oddly, the questions posed seemed to ask for answers. But in this context, the speakers could provide no answers, however anecdotal. It was all based on rhetorical issues because the answers couldn't come from the speakers. The issues raised were larger, and at a whole-of-government and societal level. A few of us kinda rolled eyes. Nobody is in a position to answer questions on trends if the society itself isn't sure where it wants to go. We're certainly in a flux now. Well, the room put up a show of hands to indicate that we thought Singapore society to be more conservative than liberal. It's not a matter of wanting to shift towards being liberal. We need not. We have a choice.
The short two hours at the lecture weren't enough to provide illuminating insights. But it was a good opportunity to hear comments from the speakers which weren't regurgitated from the same-old speeches and safe lines. Okay, I regularly see and hear these speakers, so I'm aware of their general feelings on various issues. They're pretty active on social media too. If nothing else, seeing the speakers provided human faces to the words seen and read in the various media platforms. Discussions ought to be formed on the basis of academic courtesy, at the very least. Nowadays, civility is underrated.
Part 4 What Kind of Singaporeans Do We Want? mentioned,
The city-state is seeing potential fractures, an alarming trend in a society that has long been known for its stability and business-friendly nature. Fault-lines are now visible, including income inequality, anti-foreigner sentiment and the political divide between ordinary Singaporeans and perceived economic or social elites.
We're all perfectly capable of reading the F50 Report and digesting the information and analysis thrown up, and decide for ourselves how to interpret the knowledge gleaned. And in our own spheres, effect the movement and the changes in the future for a Singapore we want, and somehow, find a compromise amongst the different voices, values, needs and ideals.