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Distinguished Speakers Series

‘Building An Inclusive Society’ with Minister Desmond Lee

CJC welcomed Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, to share his perspective on key Singaporean issues on 30 July 2019.

Addressing popular discourses surrounding Singapore's social issues, Mr Lee provided valuable insights on how complex social issues, such as homelessness, domestic abuse and familial challenges surrounding teenage pregnancies, are addressed through close partnership with the community.

With limited resources in the early years of Singapore’s independence, Mr Lee shared that the Government’s focus was on rising tides to lift as many boats as possible through public housing, education, public healthcare, jobs and building a strong economy. With personal and family stability achieved, many households were able to improve their livelihoods. However, with globalisation and technological shifts in the 1990s, income disparity grew and the Government focused more resources on supporting those with less who needed a stronger helping hand. These included providing additional means-tested subsidies, and special schemes such as Edusave, MediFund and housing grants. 

At the 2013 National Day Rally, recognising that individual effort and family support alone may not be enough for some households, the Government highlighted the New Way Forward to give even greater support through the Government and community. In recent years, the Government has stepped up efforts to strengthen social service delivery, making assistance more comprehensive, convenient and coordinated for these families. 

Mr Lee emphasised several attributes that would keep society progressing and cohesive. The first was to reduce inequality through providing every child with a good start and access to education, regardless of one’s family background. Every youth, especially those at risk, should be empowered with opportunities to succeed. He also highlighted key efforts in place to create good jobs as well as support given to help lower wage workers progress. He stressed that everyone should embrace life-long learning, so that Singaporeans have the peace of mind to age well and meaningfully in their silver years. Finally, for those who had fallen on difficult times, Mr Lee shared how MSF works closely with partners on the ground to provide integrated and targeted assistance. He also shared how some of CJC’s alumni, including Ms Chia Yong Yong (Class of 1980), Mr David Hoe (Class of 2008) and Mr Dominic Lim (Class of 2005), have been playing their part by working with the community and the Government to catalyse a more inclusive society.  The JC2s then posed queries that ranged from the effectiveness of meritocracy to ways in which youths could be encouraged to volunteer and give back to society. Heartened by the active participation of the cohort, Mr Lee not only answered the students’ questions, but also cleared some misconceptions about current government policies. As the dialogue came to an end, it is without a doubt that the JC2s left the auditorium with a deeper appreciation of key societal concerns and how we can all play our part in addressing these challenges together.