My Cabinet Colleague Mr Edwin Tong,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very happy to join all of you this morning at the launch of the Singapore Government Partnerships Office (SGPO).

When people think about Singapore’s nation building journey, they usually think about our economic transformation, and how we got from “3rd World to 1st” within one generation.

But in fact, one of the less talked about but still, a very important ingredient behind Singapore’s success is partnership.

We have long been a believer in the power of partnerships, how we bring diverse stakeholders together, collaborating and working together for a common purpose as part of one Team Singapore.

We were very deliberate about this from the very beginning. It is not as though we are now only talking about partnerships – in fact, we were already pushing the idea of partnership before Singapore’s independence.

Take tripartism for example. We promoted tripartite partnership as a way for unions,businesses, workers and the Government to come together in close partnership with one another. In many other countries, businesses and unions are in conflict, fighting with one another. But in Singapore, we come together and, instead of fighting over a shrinking pie, we work together to promote economic growth and ensure that everyone benefits fairly from the growing pie. It is a very radically different way of working, and no other country operates the way our businesses, unions and the government do.

Or take the grassroots movement, which we started through the People’s Association in 1960, before we became an independent country. Through PA, we mobilised volunteers, we galvanised the community, and we brought the government close to the people. We empowered the grassroots to build our nation together from strengthening community bonds to helping the disadvantaged.

These are concrete examples of how we have harnessed the power of partnership to build today’s Singapore. And over the years and decades, we have continued to strengthen this spirit of partnership in Singapore.

In the government for example, we have set up more consultation mechanisms. When ministries put up new policies and legislation these days, it is practically a norm for them to have consultation processes. We also do it centrally through a mechanism called REACH.

We have supported more ground-up initiatives. Many have been sprouting up over the years, including those lead by some of you here today.

We have opened more space for Singaporeans to contribute their views and ideas in meaningful ways.

Many government ministries and agencies now have Public, Private and People (3P) divisions. When this first came out it was a novelty, but nowadays almost all government ministries will have something called 3P, or if not, something related to engagement, in order to drive their partnership efforts.

All of you in this room have been our partners in this journey of strengthening partnership. You come from a wide range of different backgrounds.

Some of you are passionate advocates for civic participation.

Others are key partners in the community, working to support a wide range of causes, from caring for the disadvantaged and the marginalised, urban farming, mental health, female and youth empowerment, senior care, access to justice and many others.

We also have business, academic, and philanthropic partners here today. Your support of our social and community groups have been critical in empowering them to make a bigger impact.

Amidst this diversity, all of you are united in your desire to make a positive impact on society, and to work together for a shared purpose.

So today I would like to thank all of you for your partnership and your contributions to Singapore over the years. Thank you very much!

This spirit of partnership has seen us through many challenges over the decades – whether it was the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, 9/11 and SARS in the early 2000s, and the more recent Covid-19 crisis.

In fact, we were able to mount an effective response to Covid only because of the strength of our partnerships.

Take for example the support for workers whose livelihoods were disrupted during the pandemic. The government rolled out assistance measures, but it was the Unions who played a key role, reaching out to the most vulnerable, including our self-employed and freelancers, taking the lead to organise job fairs and helping those retrenched find alternative employment.

Look at what happened in the community. It was the work of many community groups doing their part – be it to collect essential supplies to help needy families or to reach out to isolated seniors.

Businesses played a critical role too. They worked with the government to secure the critical supplies we needed to keep our economy going. They helped to establish the Community Care facilities at the EXPO, all largely through a business coalition stepping forward, and many did their part for our community by donating generously and allowing their staff to volunteer for a whole range of Covid operations, from swabbing to testing to Safe Distancing Ambassadors, all of which you have forgotten, because it was like a bad distant nightmare. And we don’t want it to happen again.

In the midst of Covid, we set up an Emerging Stronger Taskforce comprising representatives from the public, private, and people sectors.

We created Alliances for Action – platforms that bring together citizens, community groups and businesses to develop and implement solutions on significant issues of the day.

Initially, many of these covered specific areas related to our fight against Covid. But we have since expanded them to many other areas.

To date, we have more than 35 such alliances, covering a wide range of issues like uplifting lower wage workers, strengthening corporate purpose, and making Singapore more food resilient.

So the bottom line is, we have come a long way in our partnership journey, from initiatives that were started way back in the early 60s, to new initiatives, new modalities, and new ways of working together.

Because of our combined efforts, we have today in Singapore a stronger sense of cohesion and solidarity, a higher level of trust where everyone actively supports one another, so that we can progress together as one united

But we also know that we cannot afford to stand still, we cannot be complacent, and we have to keep on moving forward.

Because the world and our society are changing, and we will have to adapt to these changes. When we look around us, I think we all know and can see how rapidly things are changing in the world.

There is somehow, not surprisingly, a pervasive sense of pessimism setting in on the geopolitical front.

Setting aside economic and how the global economy performs, geopolitical risks are rising because we are shifting away from that long period of peace and stable globalisation that all of us have enjoyed for more than 30 years.
Now, countries are prioritising national security and resilience over economic interdependence.

Traditional methods of cooperation are eroding and breaking down, and that is why we see wars raging in Europe and the Middle East, and violence and arm conflict threatening to spread in other parts of the world. Supply chains are also getting disrupted more frequently.


In essence, we are entering a world of conflict and confrontation, and all this means we will face an external environment that is less favourable to our security and prosperity. We will need to marshal ourselves to confront this new reality and the challenges they bring. We must also gird ourselves against its impact on our social cohesion and solidarity.


We can see, how these can impact countries. We see this around the world.


In the face of external stress, economic and social strain, people’s trust in the system gets eroded; people’s trust in one another can easily diminish.


Differences in society become entrenched, and they turn into intractable fissures. And that’s how societies become deeply divided and polarised.


We are not immune to these same powerful forces that can potentially divide us. There is no reason why Singapore is immune to this. It is not as though we have a special vaccine. In fact, as a diverse, multi-racial, multi religious society, we are all the more susceptible to such divisive forces in the world.


That’s why we had the Forward Singapore exercise (which concluded) last year – to refresh our social compact, to come together and forge a new consensus on our way forward and the next bound of nation building for Singapore.


Through Forward Singapore, we engaged in conversations with many Singaporeans across all walks of life, on their different goals and aspirations for our nation.


Pulling it together, we now have a roadmap that sets out our shared vision for Singapore.


Many of you here today played an active role in the exercise – as participants, and even as organisers of the various engagement sessions we had. Thank you for your contributions too! A key plank of Forward Singapore is to broaden and deepen our partnership. In the Forward Singapore exercise, we talked about what the Singapore dream is about, broadening definition of success, what we would like to see Singapore as in the future. But to enable us to get there, we really need stronger partnerships.


And I believe we can do more to harness the expertise, experience and passions of Singaporeans towards our shared goals and towards the Singapore that we all want for the future.


For example, there are volunteers and community groups who often know the local needs of the community best, and can organise themselves quickly to address emerging gaps in the community.


There are many ground-up initiatives and groups who can evolve new and innovative ways to serve the community, and to shape the character and tone of our society.


The bottom line is that we can achieve much more when we work together – as partners.


Today, we already have various platforms for government agencies to partner with community groups as I mentioned just now – government, ministries, agencies that have divisions doing engagement work. But as they are fronted and offered by different agencies, from an individual perspective of a ground-up or a community organisation, it can be difficult to figure out which agency to approach to develop your ideas further.


That is why we are launching the Singapore Government Partnerships Office today. It will aim to make partnering with the government more seamless and accessible in three ways.


First, it will serve as a first-stop for citizens who have an idea and want to take action in partnership with the government. Through the Partners Portal, Singaporeans will be able to share their ideas and the support they require. The Office will direct these submissions to the relevant agencies, and support them in exploring how good ideas can be taken further.


Second, it will help catalyse new partnerships. Other than linking-up with government agencies, the Office will connect interested Singaporeans with other like-minded individuals and organisations where possible, and direct them to potential funding sources, mentors, and other resources which can help make their ideas a reality. Because partnership is not just about individual groups with the Government, it is about individuals and groups amongst yourselves.


And thirdly, it will advocate for deeper citizen-government collaboration, working closely with agencies to identify more areas where citizens can play a meaningful role, and publicise these opportunities accordingly so that more
people can come on board and get involved.


I encourage all interested Singaporeans to come forward.


If you have passion about a certain issue or cause, or if you have an interesting idea, and want to do your part to contribute to the community, the SGPO is here for you.


Please get in touch, and find out more about all the support we have to help you.


Meanwhile, we want to create more opportunities, big and small, for everyone and every citizens to contribute meaningfully to our shared future.


Our youth, for example, are very passionate and keen to do more.


And that is why Minister Edwin have announced last year, the establishment of 4 youth panels for young people to develop ideas on issues that are important to them, including on financial security, and the environment.


We look forward to hearing their recommendations before too long.


There are many other things we want to do under Forward Singapore. It is not just a one-year plan, it is a roadmap for our next bound of nation building. It is a multi-year agenda. The details of some of our policy changes, programmes and new initiatives are being worked out. You can expect the first tranche of major updates at the upcoming Budget next month. Please stay tune for the Budget, it’s coming soon. But before we roll out some of these new budget initiatives, I think it’s very good that we are starting the year with the launch of Singapore Government Partnerships Office. It shows that we are putting partnerships first on our agenda, and partnerships is what will enable us to take all the things we do forward.


So, this launch of the Singapore Government Partnerships Office marks another milestone in our national effort to deepen the spirit of partnership that has brought us this far as a country. I am confident that if we can encourage more people to join us in this partnership journey, we can foster a stronger sense of kinship and trust, and we can build a better and more united Singapore.


Other related content that might interest you

Press Release
27 Oct 2023

Release of Forward Singapore Report: 4G Unveils Roadmap to Build Our Shared Future

Press Release
28 Jun 2022

Press Release Launch of Forward Singapore (28 June 2022)

03 Oct 2022

Parliamentary Reply: Progress of the Forward Singapore Exercise

24 Feb 2023

FY2023 Budget Debate Round-Up Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Mr Lawrence Wong

27 Oct 2023

Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong's Opening Remarks at Launch of Forward Singapore Festival on 27 Oct 2023