Visit by Minister of State, Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Manpower, Zaqy Mohamad to Bali for the 12th Bali Democracy Forum

Minister of State (MOS), Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Manpower, Zaqy Mohamad is in Bali to attend the 12th Bali Democracy Forum (BDF).

The theme for this year's BDF is Democracy and Inclusivity. MOS Zaqy participated in a panel discussion on Developing Inclusive Policies: Markets, Services, and Spaces, where he exchanged views with participants on implementing inclusive social and economic policies for the benefit of all citizens. The full text of MOS Zaqy's remarks is appended below.

MOS Zaqy also met Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi at the sidelines of the BDF. MOS Zaqy and Minister Retno reaffirmed the strong and mutually-beneficial ties between Singapore and Indonesia and exchanged views on ways to deepen cooperation in a number of areas, including in human resource development.

MOS Zaqy returns to Singapore on 6 December 2019.

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Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

1 A very good afternoon. It is an honour to represent Singapore at the 12th Bali Democracy Forum (BDF). Let me begin by thanking Her Excellency Retno Marsudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia, and the Indonesian government, for organising this forum and for the warm welcome and hospitality.

2 Since it was first convened in 2008, the BDF has grown to become a key platform for countries in the region to exchange views on democracy, pluralism and good governance. Our diverse experiences demonstrate that while there is no one model for democracy, leaders are ultimately held accountable for delivering the best possible outcomes for their people.

3 In this context, the theme for this year's BDF, Democracy and Inclusivity is pertinent. Today we are witnessing the increasing fragmentation and polarisation of societies, including along socio-economic, ethnic, and religious lines. This trend has been exacerbated by disruptions brought about by technological transformation. More groups have been disproportionately affected at an accelerated pace, creating greater social dislocation and disenfranchisement. There is thus a need for governments to be more nimble and for government policies to adapt more quickly as societal needs change.

4 It is important for all governments to proactively adopt an inclusive approach to policy-making. We have to listen to people, and be able to act more quickly. Today,Singaporeans live together harmoniously in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society. But this is not something we take for granted, even after many years of peace. We believe this is a continuous work in progress and Singapore continues to work hard to create the right conditions for social mobility and equal opportunity for all. We believe in the importance of continuing to create an environment for both democracy and inclusivity to thrive.

5 First, Singapore believes that it is important to provide all our citizens, regardless of their background, an equal opportunity to succeed. Our citizens are rewarded on the basis of their efforts and talents, without discrimination. That said, it is important for the government to ensure that as the economy grows and progresses, those with lower incomes are not left behind. We want citizens to feel that as the country progresses, there is shared prosperity, and that they are progressing along with the economy. So we seek to level the playing field as much as possible. This includes adjusting our policies to make quality education, housing, as well as healthcare available for everyone. On housing, for example, we strive to ensure that all Singaporeans, especially first-timers and low-income earners, have access to public housing through targeted grants. As a result, more than ninety percent of Singaporeans own their own homes. We are also spending more resources and channelling more efforts into enhancing access to affordable early childhood education, to help every child start off well in life.

6 Second, the digital revolution has created opportunities, but also challenges for workers. If our workers do not have the requisite skills to harness technology, their wages will stagnate and they could even be made redundant. To ensure that we prepare workers, including senior workers, well, the government encourages all Singaporeans to continually upgrade their skills so that they can access more advanced jobs as well as future roles. There are schemes for low-wage workers, such as the Progressive Wage Model, which enable workers to gain higher wages as they upgrade their skills. This has contributed to lower tier incomes rising faster than upper tier ones in the last five years. These policies demonstrate that the Singapore Government is invested in ensuring continued inclusivity for all Singaporeans.

7 Third, Singapore believes that it is important for the government to create common spaces where everyone can feel safe and welcome. This includes physical spaces. In some areas in Singapore, there are integrated developments where we find younger and older populations coming together. This is achieved by creating housing, medical, and elderly-friendly facilities all in one space. This is an example of how we are turning our public spaces into inclusive spaces for Singaporeans of all ages and all walks of life to come together. We also have ethnic Self-Help Groups (SHG) which uplift minority communities by providing academic and social support for disadvantaged students and families.

8 As aptly encapsulated in this year's theme, democracy and inclusivity must go hand-in-hand. Therefore, we must continue to build resilient democracies on the basis of pluralism, non-discrimination, and equality. Platforms such as the BDF allow us to have a frank exchange of ideas and help us to improve democratic governance to build stronger and more inclusive societies.

9 Thank you.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Singapore