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Tharman Shanmugaratnam engages alumni at breakfast dialogue

30 Aug 2013

Mr Shanmugaratnam (left) with moderator Prof Mahbubani during the engaging Question and Answer session
Singapore is in a very important transition economically, socially and politically. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam highlighted this to the 150-strong audience gathered at the Inaugural NUS Alumni Breakfast Dialogue organised by the NUS Office of Alumni Relations on 30 August 2013 at the Conrad Centennial Singapore.

“Economically, to put it very simply, we are clearly no longer a developing country but we are not yet a truly advanced economy. Not yet truly advanced in terms of the levels of productivity, levels of expertise and skills, and as a result not yet truly advanced in terms of wages of ordinary persons. We still have some way to go and that is an opportunity,” said Mr Shanmugaratnam.

Socially, he noted that Singapore is arriving at a different stage in the country’s development. This is due to an increasing ageing population coupled with the issues of social mobility and social inequality.

Recognising such issues, Mr Shanmugaratnam said: “We take inequality and more broadly social cohesion very seriously. A distinctive feature of Singaporean society is that everyone has a chance - you start off with less, we (the government) give you a leg up and hope you do as best as possible. That way you have a spirit of optimism which fortunately is still there in Singapore society.”

What can be done for the middle class? In response to the question posed by Professor Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, who moderated the Question and Answer session, Mr Shanmugaratnam said that the “middle class squeeze” is especially acute in the most advanced economies. To address this, quality growth is needed to offer better prospects to the middle class so that they can fulfil their aspirations.

During the lively interaction between the Minister and the audience, questions raised covered topics such as more active citizenry; countries that Singapore might want to emulate; the current approach towards foreign talent as well as the resilience of Singaporeans.

The NUS Alumni Breakfast Dialogue, which is a new initiative of the NUS Office of Alumni Relations, aims to engage younger NUS alumni professionals in executive or middle management positions. It seeks to create a platform for an exchange of ideas, led by experts in their respective fields of industry and commerce.