THE manner in which the government grew the Singapore economy in the last 10 years worked well, but these strategies are no longer sustainable in a very different environment today, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said on Thursday.
The country's population is in transition, and both workforce growth and the society's rate of ageing will reach a peak soon, he told reporters.
He was speaking at the introduction of the People's Action Party (PAP)'s four-member team for the East Coast group representation constituency (GRC), which is contesting in the coming general election (GE).
Mr Lim, saying the government's policies have to evolve with the changes in society, added: "These are big issues that we are confronted with, how to overcome these three peaks - the workforce peak, the population peak and the ageing peak. This is something that keeps many of us awake at night."
Voters must thus seriously think about the type of people they want to give their vote to at next month's GE. Members of Parliament (MPs) must do more than simply manage a town; they must also be able to do their part to help steer Singapore through the challenges in this period of economic transition, said Mr Lim.
He is the anchor minister of East Coast GRC, which earned a 54.8 per cent vote share against the opposition Workers' Party (WP) at the last GE in May 2011. This was the party's smallest margin of victory among the GRCs.
With just two weeks to go until Polling Day on Sept 11, the stage is set for what is likely to be another tight battle involving the PAP and WP.
What is different this time is that the GRC has shrunk in size: It is now made up of four members, down from five previously. There are just over 99,000 voters in East Coast, making it the smallest of all the 16 GRCs in Singapore, going by the redrawn electoral boundaries.
Mr Lim has on his team the experienced trio of Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan, Minister of State for Defence and National Development Mohamad Maliki Osman and two-term backbencher Jessica Tan.
The fifth member of the current East Coast team, former transport minister Raymond Lim, is retiring from politics. His Fengshan ward, with 23,000 electors, has been carved out into a single seat. The PAP has chosen to field a newbie, 38-year-old grassroots leader Cheryl Chan, there.
Mr Lim Swee Say conceded that the government had much to improve on in areas such as communicating policies and intentions effectively.
Overall, the PAP's national vote share in GE2011 was 60.1 per cent, down from the 66.6 per cent in GE2006 and 75.3 per cent in 2001 - a "clear signal" that the PAP should reconsider how it goes about engaging citizens, he said.
"We've responded constructively to the signal sent by voters in the 2011 GE. What we learned is a very strong reminder of something that I've always believed in since the first day I entered politics: People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care."
The WP is keeping mum about where it will field its candidates, but the talk is that non-constituency MP Gerald Giam could again lead its team in East Coast.
Turning to Fengshan, Mr Lim dismissed suggestions that Ms Chan, who works at gas and engineering firm The Linde Group, was not the best candidate for Fengshan, given her inexperience in politics.
"It is not important whether Cheryl is a new face, but whether she has the sincerity. Among the five of us (in East Coast), we all agreed she is the best person," said Mr Lim. "None of us has that kind of deep engagement with the residents in Fengshan - deeper, better, and stronger - than Cheryl."
She has served on various committees, helped out at meet-the-people sessions and gone on numerous house visits.
She said issues concerning the elderly and vulnerable children in society were the closest to her heart, and that she will do all she can to help these groups of people if elected.
With her opponent likely to be from the WP as well, she said she was ready for her maiden electoral battle.
"We knew they would be fielding someone here. Who that individual is, we don't know now and actually, it does not matter to us. At the end of the day, if you have an opposition (rival), you have to put up a fight," she said.