2024 will be the year to look out for as Singapore prepares for the next leadership transition. With the rising cost of living, geopolitical conflicts, and economic uncertainties as the backdrop of change, DPM Lawrence Wong will have his job cut out for him.  The two current affairs interviews aired on 8 Nov 2023 are undoubtedly some of my best this year.    

Very privileged to interview Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for National Development, on Singapore public housing - an issue that affects many Singaporeans, and is at the heart of the state-citizenry social compact. This episode (in Chinese) was broadcast today (31 Oct 2023) on Mediacorp. 

很荣幸被邀请上八频道的“前线追踪“节目分享我对 “前进配套” 的解读。  

It is my pleasure to share with Ch8 on the new "Majulah Package" announced by the Prime Minister  at the National Day Rally in support of soon-to-be silver generation.  


狮城有约 | 十分访谈:本地政坛风波工人党昨天召开记者会,就党内阿裕尼集选区国会议员贝理安,以及青年团主席佘雪玲的不当关系做出回应。两人承认婚外情关系,而且已退党。贝理安也辞去了议员职务。 新加坡管理大学法律系副教授陈庆文认为,工人党在记者会上澄清及面对记者提问时,表现得相当沉着、稳妥,不过还有一些关键问题并未解答。他认为这些问题的回应有助于工人党证明,他们是否足够坦诚和透明化。 “因为一直以来工人党都高喊口号,说让执政党‘自己审查自己’是不足够的。但这次事件也让一些人质疑工人党是否可以做得更多,更认真看待所收到的信息反馈,或是党领袖是不是应该进一步调查。” 时事评论员梁振雄博士则指出,突然同时失去两名知名党员对工人党的冲击或比陈川仁事件对人民行动党的影响更大。他解释,工人党在下一届大选前将面对三个较大的挑战,包括:如何重拾国人对工人党的信心,如何更好地管理党员纪律,以及如何招揽更多优秀的候选人。 朝野两党先后出现桃色风波,引起了坊间许多讨论。有些人认为,政治人物是否服务好人民最重要,私人生活方面不是他们最看重的。但也有人认为,作为人民代议士,而且还可能左右国家政策方向,拥有高道德标准非常关键。 对此,陈庆文副教授说,可能有一部分人认为这类事件属于私事,纵使事件本身并不可取,不过大多数国人对于政治人物的要求还是更高的。 陈副教授强调,当涉及到错误的行为时,理应是无法容忍,且不应包庇的,不过他认为这次事件或许也引发人们思考,我们是否过度审视我们的民选议员,以致加入政坛变得越来越不具吸引力。

does Meritocracy still work for singapore? where are the gaps? 

I was interviewed by Mediacorp Channel 8 primetime headline news (in Mandarin) on meritocracy, where it still works as well as it should in Singapore, and where are the gaps that we need to address as society, and what are the emerging challenges ahead.

Report on Public Sector Outcomes 2022

On Wednesday 7 Dec 2022, I was interviewed by Mediacorp Channel 8 primetime headline news (in Mandarin) for the "Report on Public Sector Outcomes 2022" (RPSO) released on the same day. The broadcaster asked for my overall assessment of the report card, the areas where the public sector can do better, and what are the domains that future evaluation should encompass.

Unlike the Population Census, the key findings in the biennial report are not extensively debated, although they do cover the critical performance indicators, such as access to healthcare services, pre-school education, and median income. Singapore has done well in most areas, notwithstanding the global headwinds in the last 2 years.

That said, an area(s) that would be of interest to policymakers and Singaporeans alike in future reporting concerns the subjective indicators of wellbeing, such as collective happiness, sense of cohesion, and perceived optimism - these measures, no doubt considered less objective by conventional evaluation benchmarks, are equally if not more important as the measurable, objective ones. Importantly subjective indicators encapsulate our daily lived experiences, which are critical aspects of wellbeing. Emerging techniques and proxy measures such as sentiment analyses and time-use can capture these measures to provide a complementary perspective to public sector performance.

Community Advisory panel report on neighbourhood noise management 

Establishing a set of social norms to regulate neighbourhood noise seems straight forward enough. In early 2022, the Community Advisory Panel (CAP) was set up by the Municipal Services Office (MSO) at the Ministry of National Development to address the raising number of complaints on this area.

The volunteer panel includes Dr William Wan (Chairman), Dr Foo Fung Fong, Prof Gan Woon-Seng, Mr Isman Bin Abdul Rahman, Ms Lela Kaur, Mr Raymond Poh, Dr Sathish S/O Sritharan, Ms Susan Ng, and myself. We were asked to fact-find, and recommend the necessary policy changes and interventions to tackle the problem.

After surveying over 4,400 respondents, 11 focus group discussions, and half dozen meetings with stakeholders in government (eg Community Mediation Centre, Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals) and ground-up associations (e.g., MCST), it is clear that neighbourhood noise is a subjective and complex issue - it is also a manifestation of Singapore's diverse social fabric, and the divergence in lifestyles, rituals, and values.

The list of policy recommendations by CAP was released yesterday (19 Nov 2022) at the closing dialogue. Among the key items include:

1. Forge a consensus and a set of norms on what is (un)acceptable neighbourhood noise. We hope the norms will serve as a social compact among residents in Singapore

2. Extending quiet hours from 10.30pm-7am to 10pm-8am

3. Set up dedicated agency in government to address noise related nuisance, harassments, and disputes; produce a well-defined resolution process that includes making mediation mandatory; and empower the agency to enforce and penalise offenders

4. Deep dive and define an objective auditory threshold that is considered unacceptable

The list of recommendations to government represents the FIRST stage of CAP's work, and it is principally centered around managing noise nuisance from proximal neighbours (e.g., resident next door), as opposed to congregational noise (e.g., noise from the playground, void deck, carparks).

For those who feel that not enough is done to address congregational noise, be reassured that the work is but the first phase of review. Amendment to quiet hours is not insignificant change because it has material impact to neighbourhood businesses and other activities.

On behalf of CAP, I like to thank SMS Sim Ann and the MSO Secretariat for their support in the past 8 months. 

What is the "profile" of your neighbourhood? Do you fit in?

Yes, it matters more than you think. And quite often, in an opposite way that you would imagine.  The essence can be summarised in figures 1a and 1c.  The results from Singapore are no different from the rest of the world: middle-upper class neighbourhoods provide a psychological buffer to the vulnerable families; economically needy individuals living in these neighbourhoods feel protected as far as their quality of life is concerned.  This privileged environment however, also amplified class consciousness among the vulnerable individuals by means of social comparisons with their privileged neighbours; the disadvantaged feel the pinch in class differentiation.

This is the challenge we face today. How to encourage social mixing in a diverse neighbourhood, but also ensure that the interaction is meaningful.

Some of our built features can make a difference, but that will be a story for another day... 

This article is not possible without the generous support of Prof Tan Soo Jiuan and Prof Siok Kuan Tambyah, both from the NUS Biz School.  I am grateful for their support, always.

Leong, C.H., Tan, S.J., Minton, E.A., & Tambyah, S.K. (2021). Economic hardship and neighbourhood diversity: Influences on consumer well-being. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 55(4), 1226-1248 (IF: 1.733).

$2.27 million for five-year SUSS study into how Singaporeans use their time

The Straits Times

Ng Wei Kai

SINGAPORE - Researchers from the Singapore University of the Social Sciences (SUSS) will be conducting a five-year study into how Singaporeans use their time.

The project will involve 1,000 families or about 3,000 individual participants, SUSS said at a funding presentation ceremony on Monday (Aug 16).

SUSS will seek to understand how Singaporeans' routines and rituals have been changed by the pandemic and its restrictions on social activity and how caregiving arrangements for the young and old are evolving.

Living with Covid-19 means having to adjust our lives to the changes that come with it - especially regarding work and the economy. In my chat with Dr Daniel Seah, lecturer at SUSS School of Law, we talked about self-reliance for the future generation as they enter new phases of life during this tough time.


This is part of the SUSS podcast series, Future Social, that explores issues which are rapidly and profoundly changing our lives on the social, cultural and economic fronts.


Have a listen and let me know what you think!

#SUSS #SUSSpodcast