Welcome to BSI Conference 2017, as we discuss unintended consequences in Singapore.
When policymakers, communities or advocates make decisions and take actions, they do so with the purpose of achieving some desired goal. But sometimes, unintended consequences occur. These are outcomes that are not the ones intended, anticipated and foreseen by the purposeful decision or action.
Unintended consequences can be positive or negative, although the discussions often focus on the unexpected adverse impact that may result from well-intentioned policies or public actions.
It is tempting to say that unintended consequences happen because we live in an uncertain and unpredictable world, and that there is not much we can do to prevent their occurrence or prepare for them. In fact, many unintended consequences are neither predetermined nor random. It is true that whether or not unintended consequences happen will be affected by many economic and social factors that Singapore is confronted with, but much will also depend on how we approach these factors and the potential consequences.
When putting together this conference, I was guided by several questions that have become more salient in recent years as Singapore society underwent significant changes and the inter-connection of issues increased in complexity.
What approaches can we adopt to address unintended consequences so that we would have a more resilient and adaptive society?
How is our push for innovation caused by, or a cause of, some unintended consequences?
Are we prepared for the outcomes that our smart nation initiative may bring about?
What can the public and private sectors learn from each other in dealing with uncertainty?
In critical areas such as healthcare or race and religion, what issues should Singapore pay more attention to in terms of unintended consequences?
I hope that by exploring these and other issues about unintended consequences in Singapore, this conference will provide new perspectives and possibilities as we strive to achieve our goals and build a strong Singapore society.