Crafting And Implementing National Policies In The Future

by Patrick Liew on August 20, 2019

Crafting And Implementing National Policies In The Future

The 4G leaders will face an electorate that’s increasingly better informed and more exposed to different sociopolitical systems and environments in the world.
A new generation is coming of age that tends to be more sophisticated and demanding.

And they have more choices, higher expectations, and different aspirations.

These factors may cause more polarization and divisions, and potentially affect stability and growth of our nation.
To prevent fallouts, the 4G leadership should address the following issues:

1. The 4G leaders will have to do more and do better in earning the trust and hopefully, affection and respect of our people.

The social capital earned by previous generations of leaders may not necessarily be transferable to the 4G leadership.

Past leaders understood ground needs as many came from the grassroots with first hand working experience with “men on the street” and their polices addressed in most times the real needs of the people.

Most of the 4G leaders do not have a similar backround, and they will have to find different ways to connect and collaborate with our people and co-create solutions with them.

These ways include, for example, having more town hall meetings, and running more online forums and conversations.

They must find the most pragmatic way to understand their ground, and make them feel that they are reaching out to them and care for them.

2. Help our people to understand that there are no perfect policies.
Every policy has downsides, trade-offs, and unintended consequences.

There’ll be people who will benefit more from every policy, and others who may have to sacrifice for the greater good of the country.

In crafting policies, the 4G leaders will have to respond to concerns of those who do not benefit from any policy and mitigate any negative effects.

How can people accept that policies have been put in place for the greater good of society?
3. Continue to educate our people to do their own research, think critically, and make sound and better-informed decisions and actions.
And encourage them to develop more citizens-driven initiatives to strengthen society.

The bedrock of a sound democratic system depends on an objective, matured, balanced and pragmatic electorate.

4. The 4G leadership has to spend as much time in crafting policies as communicating rationale and values of the policies.
Eg. The “kueh lapis” system for helping the poor is a targeted, balance and effective system.

However, how many on the ground can understand the “kueh lapis” system?

Have we got an adequate number of people to explain the system, and know how to leverage on the system to help qualified and deserving people?

How many in the higher socioeconomic strata can come to terms that they will enjoy much lesser benefits than those who are more disadvantaged than them?
5. Consider simplifying policies and setting aside more time for public consultations – without over-compromising effectiveness and values of the policies.
And put in more efforts to communicate and promote the policies.

If our people don’t have adequate buy-in and support for the policies, they may not actively participate in helping to support and carry out the policies.

If that’s the case, no matter how well crafted the policies may be, these policies may come to no avail.

Eg. There are many merits in the Population White Paper and important challenges raised in the paper that need to be addressed.

Unfortunately, due to a less-than-effective implementation process, many of our people became distracted by the planning guideline of having 6.9 million people in the future.

They may have unwittingly become de-focused on addressing key issues at hand and in the future.
6. Develop ways to respond to naysayers and political opportunists who’ll likely throw mud at every given opportunity.
Do not for a moment believe that a little mud will not cause a permanent stain.

If they are thrown regularly, and the appeal and level of mud grows, it may cause detrimental effects on our future.

As politicians, our leaders must listen – and seem to listen – even if they sound unreasonable and try to understand why some people feel they way they do.
7. The authorities need more people at different levels to promote policies, and address resulting issues promptly and effectively.
We need more and better ways to monitor performance levels and evaluate outcomes, and provide the necessary feedback to relevant authorities.

Eg. While the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) has contributed to improving businesses on an overall basis, the results of these schemes in terms of improving productivity is uncertain and can be further improved.

On top of that, according to the IRAS’ website, there were many PIC abuses and “abusive scenarios”, “signs of unacceptable and suspicious PIC arrangements”, and “mistakes” in claiming PIC.

There may have been a disconnection of intents from actual outcomes and we need to narrow the gaps.
8. The 4G leaders will have to review roles, responsibilities and initiatives of grassroots organizations and ensure that their effectiveness and efficiency will continue to improve.
Eg. Grassroots organizations may increasingly be reaching out to niche groups and not to the general population.

They may not be as effective in reaching out to the young, the middle class, PMETs, business owners and financial investors, and the male population in general.

Some of the grassroots leaders may not channel feedback to their advisors for various reasons, including fear of antagonizing the advisors and being side-lined in their grassroots organizations.
9. The Internet is a wild horse.
It’s a powerful tool for good as well as a platform for spreading lies, half truths and fake news.

Once the misinformation go viral, especially in closed and private groups, it’s hard to control the spread, and respond to and correct the misinformation.

The 4G leaders need to look into ways for the people to verify information and check on facts and figures.

They need to provide more information in a palatable way through, for example, appealing memes, catchy statements, and short videos so as to communicate and clarify issues and respond to concerns on the ground.

The Internet can work for us or against us. Those who can master use of the Internet and better control it will have a higher chance to win in the new age.
10. The 4G leaders should catalyze more ground-up and peer-to-peer initiatives.

By doing that, they can generate more support, improve implementation process, and potentially save implementation costs too.

There may also be stronger buy-in when people are involved at early stages.
11. As they say, the devil is in the details.
Execution of a policy is a major contribution factor to its success.

The $6 million question that begs to be answered are: how can the 4G leaders give the people of Singapore a better account of the positive and negative results of implementing a policy?

How can they further entrench the discipline of measuring and evaluating policy outputs, outcomes and impacts?

By doing so, it can help to prevent or resolve many unnecessary concerns and unintended consequences.

And also contribute to a stronger evidence-based policy-making process in the future.

The 4G leaders need to get closer to the people and the people need to draw closer to the 4G leaders.

This will narrow the perception gap, and help develop a stronger unity to fight for our brighter future.

For without unity, we cannot survive and achieve progress as we weather the storms looming ahead of us, including the escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China.


I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

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