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REACH must connect with S’pore’s changing population, says ESM Goh

SINGAPORE — Government feedback platform REACH must work harder to connect with a more educated, politically aware and independent population, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.

REACH must connect with S’pore’s changing population, says ESM Goh

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — Government feedback platform REACH must work harder to connect with a more educated, politically aware and independent population, said Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong yesterday.

Now into its 30th year, REACH, which began as the Feedback Unit in 1985, must “evaluate how we can move onto the next stage”, said the former Prime Minister in his speech at the REACH Contributors’ Forum last night.

Mr Goh, who spearheaded the start of the unit, said Singaporeans have become more eager to participate in politics as they became better educated, with about 70 per cent of the population being tertiary-educated. As people become more “individualised” with the rise of social media, REACH would also have to focus on “how to get people to listen to the same channel”.

Staying on the same page in a more politically divided Singapore is important to prevent governmental gridlock, he said. “How do we then get the views of these people (who support the opposition) … have a discussion and forge a consensus to move forward?”

Conversations between the Government and the people need to achieve three goals: to inform, explain, and connect. It is not enough to have a one-way “monologue”, with the Government simply informing the public on new policies, or, Mr Goh joked, a complaint session to air grievances.

“It’s going to be a two-way channel of conversation,” he said, adding that the Government needs to spend time explaining policies so Singaporeans can understand both the positive and negative effects.

He also said it was important for the Government and Singaporeans to not just talk, but to listen and connect. “The Government cannot walk away from the people, and the people cannot walk away from the Government. Both are together in this,” he said.

Later, during a closed-door dialogue with the 160 REACH contributors who attended the event, Mr Goh said civil servants are also responsible for connecting with the people, not just politicians.

REACH chairman Amy Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower, pointed out that she and civil servants had gone to the ground to explain MediShield Life to Singaporeans. In her speech, she spoke of the growing impact of REACH. Since starting its Facebook page in 2009, it has doubled the amount of feedback received on the page, from 11,797 in 2009 to 27,140 last year.

Stressing that REACH was not just for “those who say ‘Aye’”, Dr Khor said: “We welcome naysayers who make reasoned comments on any policy, and are unafraid to speak their minds on issues that they are fired up with.”

A new version of its website was launched yesterday, which is mobile compatible and has interactive features that allow for photo uploads and a link to discussion forums.

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