Yaacob Ibrahim predicts trust between S’poreans & the govt will undergo stresses in time to come
But he says also that this Covid-19 crisis is a good way for Singapore to change for the better.
Former Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, in his 24th year as a member of parliament, appears to have on Wednesday (Feb. 26) delivered his valedictory speech in the House — especially if the upcoming General Election is called before next year’s Budget.
In his speech, Yaacob concluded by thanking the Speakers, the parliament staff and all his colleagues, past and present, before giving a heartfelt appreciation of his time as a parliamentarian:
“It has been an opportunity of a lifetime to be able to serve the people of Singapore, as an elected member of parliament. I will always cherish this experience for the rest of my life. So thank you all for the wonderful experience.”
But this sentimental conclusion to his speech did not stop the Jalan Besar GRC MP from continuing his two-year tradition of offering good insights and new suggestions as a backbencher.
This year, he honed in on the issue of trust between our government and the people, against the backdrop of the Covid-19 crisis. He again put forward a proposal regarding the digitalisation of our society.
He also welcomed the delay in increasing the GST by at least one year.
On the government’s response to Covid-19
First, Yaacob praised the government for responding decisively to the outbreak.
However, he said Singaporeans have “shown both the good and not-so-good behaviour during this challenging time”, referencing the irrational response by Singaporeans to rush for food and sundry like toilet paper.
He added, however, that he had “full confidence in the ministerial team in not only dealing with this crisis but also in learning from it valuable lessons that will help us prepare for the next crisis”.
Yaacob subsequently joked that he was sure that “Ministers Gan and Wong are both looking forward to a good night’s sleep and perhaps a round of golf when all this is over”, adding that he looked forward to meeting them on the greens.
Trust in the government
Second, Yaacob opined that the trust between the Singapore government and the people will undergo stresses in the time to come.
This will happen especially when Singapore grapples with increasingly-complex issues, like addressing the challenges of climate change as well as digitalising the economy.
He added that the trust Singapore has built over the past 60-plus years has given Singaporeans a quality of life that is the envy of other nations.
As an example, Yaacob said there is a reason why trust in public institutions in Singapore is high.
This, he argues, is because these institutions have been well-managed, staffed by capable and competent people, and are known to deliver good and fair outcomes.
An independent Digital Commission?
As Singapore digitalises its society, Yaacob said that trust in how technologies will be used is important.
He asked whether these will be deployed in a manner that preserves the best interests of Singaporeans.
In this regard, he put forward an idea: the creation of an independent Digital Commission, which he hopes will be able to look at ethical concerns from all sides dispassionately.
He likened this to the creation of the Bioethics Advisory Committee, set up to advise the government when human biomedical research raised concerns about ethical issues.
The future after Covid-19
It is also Yaacob’s wish that Singapore will change for the better after Covid-19.
“[O]ne thing we can do as a nation is to adopt new norms of hygiene standards, work-life balance arrangements, more adoption of technological ways of doing things such as running online classes and meetings and other reasonable practices that can become our new way of life.”
He voiced his hope that Singaporeans’ attitude towards frontline workers will change, saying he was heartened by the responses of Singaporeans toward our frontline staff.
He also hoped that the kindness and generosity shown by Singaporeans will be something history will remember and define who Singaporeans are as a people.
Top photo from Yaacob Ibrahim Facebook page.