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Global policy community often sees Singapore as an outstanding example of long-term thinking and planning in public policy. This is so because strategic foresight has become a central ingredient of Singapore’s policy process. Experimentation with scenario planning started in the 1980s at the Ministry of Defense. Prime Minister’s office established Scenario Planning Office in 1995.

10 years ago Centre for Strategic Futures was founded which became a part of Strategy Group at Prime Minister’s office. Many government agencies in Singapore have increasingly recognized the value of strategic foresight and set up their own teams to conduct domain-specific futures research.

At the seminar held at the Foresight Centre, Aaron Maniam (Oxford University and Former Head of Singapore Government’s Centre for Strategic Futures) said that scenarios were a very important input to preparation of strategies, and highlighted the focus issues of the state. According to him, all key policy makers and opinion leaders are interviewed for drafting of scenarios, and the important issue is not what these people think about the future, but which topics are not thought of at all. He pointed out the scenarios made in the 1990s, and recalled that in the course of drafting of these scenarios, it was found that in Singapore, less attention was paid to inequality and social issues than to economy. As a result of that, the scenarios where the main emphasis was on social topics were prepared, and this helped to ground long-term risks.

Maniam thinks that, in Singapore, foresight is so successful namely because nearly all government agencies and bodies have adopted scenario planning. In addition to that, the officials participate in the activities of the Centre for Strategic Futures and through it, learn to use foresight in their everyday work. This helps notice emerging trends beside obvious trends and be ready for the surfacing of extraordinary risks.

In the video interview, Aaron Maniam shares his ideas on the role of foresight: