from Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's recent comments in Prague,
economic issues are likely to be a major theme in the forthcoming
was quick to underscore his Government's track record in
keeping Singapore on an even keel during the Asian financial
crisis. No surprises there.
new generation –
forward and footloose –
are not hankering after cars and houses, but for
a sense of rootedness and identity
the 1991 ''mandate'' election to the ''upgrading'' vote
of 1997, the message to the electorate so far has been crystal
clear: Gripe all you want, but when it comes to bread-and-butter
issues, don't fool around with your votes.
all, it's a time-tested strategy that has carried the People's
Action Party (PAP) through countless elections.
it's hard to imagine voters keen to rock the boat at this
juncture, given the current climate of stock market malaise
and acquisition jitters.
Government, which has done its best to ward off the excesses
of global economic trends, is not to blame for the downturn.
Its best assurances to date in these uncertain times: continuity,
a generous budget, off-budget measures if necessary to maintain
business as usual.
there's hardly a rallying call for what is likely to be
a significant political milestone for Singapore.
one thing, it will be a transitional elections.
Goh has indicated that a new team will take over the helm
within the next term of office.
new slate of leaders will have to earn their own mandate.
critically, the 180,000 Singaporeans who will enter the
electoral roll this year herald a new breed of voters -
the first of the Internet generation.
sassy and cosmopolitan, with greater access to information
and alternatives, they cherish significantly different aspirations
from those of the previous electorate.
PM Goh has acknowledged that issues like HDB upgrading -
which secured the PAP its landslide victory in 1997 -- will
not resonate with younger Singaporeans.
they be brought into the fold by the usual threats to material
But the signs suggest that they're hungry for more than
the status quo .
no less than the Young PAP's online forum, participants
have been calling for an emphasis on values rather than
value: more ''belief in people'' and participation, less
rigid application of economic one-up-manship.
about a government that promises to look after a society,
and not only the active money-making population?'' one poster
warn darkly of an ''exodus'' if life in Singapore becomes
like your typical young ingrates? But the new generation
- forward and footloose though they be - are not hankering
after cars and houses, but for a sense of rootedness and
identity as Singaporeans.
be fair, these emerging aspirations have not gone unnoticed,
which is why the PAP's forthcoming electoral manifesto is
compellingly titled ''The Future Society''.
there's been uncharacteristic silence on the details, given
that the GE could be held as early as this July.
course, no one's asking to forego the fundamentals of sound
economic management. But a maturing society cannot thrive
on bread alone. Ironically, global economic competition
will demand of Singapore a more creative, responsive and
call for all Singaporeans to pull together and co-create
their common destiny was made by PM Goh himself back in
1997. It led to the Singapore 21 vision launched in 1999,
the product of an unprecedented consultative effort with
6,000 Singaporeans from all walks of life.
then, it was pitched as a national vision, our common dream
of a more caring, involved future society with a Singaporean
yet to be ratified by the electoral process.
next GE would be the first opportunity to do so, unequivocally
signalling a brand new way of making Singapore work.
as worthy a platform as any for the Government to stand
on and fight for.