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In their National Day Rally speeches, PM Lee asked Singaporeans to "write the next chapter" in this country's history while Minister Heng called for a "national conversation" on our vision for Singapore as we move inexorably forward into the future. This is a good thing.
Singapore has been hailed as an economic miracle: well-run, efficient, with a highly educated population and a clean, no-nonsense government. All these qualities have been achieved the hard way over the years and I think that Singaporeans by and large embrace these values.
Can Singapore improve, though, as a good place to be?
Absolutely. I think we do this by first getting rid of our negative traits.
Singaporeans have been described as being "kiasu", "kiasi", self-centered etc., etc. Some writers have actually commented that these qualities are good and even necessary for our survival. I beg to differ. One may achieve success by being cold-minded, calculative and risk-averse but does that make one a better human-being? I think not.
I would like to see a Singapore where having all these negative traits gets you nowhere; a place where greed is definitely not good and where those with big hearts and broad minds flourish.
When formulating policy that govern society I think government must first start with the premise that there are more good humans than bad ones. " A man is innocent until proven guilty" and our laws must reflect this in that they do not restrict the good among us just because of a few bad apples.
By all means come down hard on those of a mean and anti-social nature but at the same time give more leeway to those who may not be exactly "mainstream" but nevertheless deserve the right to find their own level.
Trying to identify future business trends and re-configuring our school system to " produce workers for the new economy", as one minister once put it, will be the same as churning out mindless automatons. Let us respect the fact that every individual is unique, with inherent natural talents and abilities, and make it possible for each to realise his or her full potential.
Singapore is a small country but we have our strengths. We may not be blessed with natural resources but we have some very fine people in our midst. We have done most things right but we can be even better. No fear, no pressure.
Brian Arthur Sunil Vittachi, 55