SINGAPORE — Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong vowed Thursday a “more open” style of government following two elections this year that showed Singaporeans wanting a greater voice in government.
Speaking to the newly convened parliament following general elections in May, Lee said the government will share more information, welcome different views, reach out to diverse groups, and engage citizens more closely.
His remarks followed two elections this year in which the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) saw its popular support significantly dented as voters voiced anger over key government policies.
Apart from soaring housing prices and a liberal policy on foreign labour, voters also voiced their desire for greater government transparency and more public consultation.
Much of the dissatisfaction was voiced through the Internet, which is harder to censor and is now playing a major role in shaping public debate in a country where the mainstream media is perceived to be pro-government.
“We have to take a much more open approach to government and to governance, the way we organise ourselves, the way we conduct our affairs,” said Lee, the son of modern Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew.
The government will “welcome different views, reach out to diverse groups including critics, hear them, exchange with them, pick up ideas from them, persuade them,” he added.
In the May polls, the PAP lost an unprecedented six seats out of the 87 at stake and its share of the vote fell to an all-time low of 60 percent from nearly 67 percent in the previous election in 2006.
During the presidential elections that followed in August, the PAP’s de facto candidate won by a slim margin. His three opponents were all critical of government policies.
In his speech to parliament, Lee said the government will “share more information with the public,” including investments made by the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, one of two state-linked firms with stakes in several companies worldwide.
While not everything can be disclosed, Lee said that “wherever possible we will disclose more rather than less… We will review the rules and what we are putting out and I’m sure over time we will do progressively more.
“We need to engage citizens more in the decisions affecting them,” he added.
He said it was “necessary and healthy for our politics to adapt to changes in our society”, and it was important to stay in tune with the times, “because if you don’t adapt as a society goes, it’s brittle and one day it will break”.