Naturally, critics are sceptical about the latest initiative, given that they do not see past effort yielding any meaningful results.
Member of Parliament, Inderjit Singh, who had been involved in Economic Review Committee and the Remaking Singapore Committee, fingered the problem - that the Government perhaps had "raised expectations" only to later disappoint the public because these expectations were not met.
"First and foremost," Mr Inderjit told the Straits Times on 11 August, "be sure you are prepared to make significant changes before consulting the public."
That is good advice and Mr Heng should keep this in mind.
And the committee should also go beyond just the economic and delve into civil liberties and political issues as well, areas which have been neglected for a long time. While economic issues would be the committee's main focus as they affect the majority more intimately, the other so-called "softer" issues have increasingly also become more important - and Singaporeans, especially after the General Election last year, are more aware of this.
An example which resulted in scepticism - after a whole year of consultation - was the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMs) in 2007/8. What we eventually saw was the Government accepting only 17 out of the 26 recommendations by the committee. The Government eventually also tightened and amended the Films Act on "party political films."
It bred cynicism and the perception, which is not unreasonable, that the entire AIMs exercise was a farce. The newly-formed Media Literacy Council (MLC), seen as a similar attempt by the Government to further dip its hands into the new media landscape, is also being met with scepticism and suspicion. The MLC being headed by a senior counsel is part of the reason for this cynicism.
Having said all that, reviewing policies itself is a good and indeed necessary thing to do. While each Singaporean will have his pet topic or issue which he would hope the Government take a relook at, the initial challenge for Mr Heng's committee is to establish trust, especially from cynics and critics. If the committee is able to do this, it will go some way in getting more Singaporeans involved in the engagement process.
What Mr Heng might want to do is to "go into the lions' den", as it were, and reach out to the Government's harshest critics, which of course would involved the opposition parties as well. This group seems to have been left out in all previous initiatives, leading to criticism that such committees are only echo chambers, offering the Government only what it wants to hear. In short, meaningless exercises which are a waste of resources.
Perhaps, however, things are different now. The "re-awakening" of the public's consciousness to things political has evidently given the ruling party a wake-up call of its own. And to be honest, the past year has seen the Government doing more to engage and listen. Indeed, some of these have led to changes, albeit small ones, in certain areas.
Now, one would hope that Mr Heng's committee (which incidentally has not been given a grand-sounding name like previous committees) would take on major issues and be courageous to recommend "radical" changes, as Mr Inderjit said. And there are many areas where such "radical" changes could be introduced - in civil liberties (gay rights, for one), the political sphere (take the Election Department out of the Prime Minister's Office, for example, and make it an independent department), and in social policies such as giving and recognising the rights of singles to public housing.
Singapore is at a turning point - one where the Government's vision forward will either inspire Singaporeans, or one which will be seen as nothing more than a public relations exercise.
For Singaporeans themselves, who have been critical of the Government not engaging them, perhaps it would be good to set aside the cynicism for the time being and see if there is nothing to contribute to the engagement process. After all, what is there to lose?
There is great opportunity for our people and the Government to speak to each other on the important and serious issues we face. There must come a time when we move beyond the diatribes and the criticisms. Both sides will have to be willing to meet each other half way - for the sake of our own future and that of our children's.
For at the end of the day, it is not about who you support politically but about the real life issues faced by each of our fellow citizen.
It will be interesting to see how all this pan out eventually.
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