New strategic govt unit to tackle critical issues

New strategic govt unit to tackle critical issues
Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean speaking at the annual Administrative Service Dinner and Promotion Ceremony.

A new government unit will be set up to identify the most critical issues facing Singapore and come up with action plans that draw on resources across its agencies.

Called the strategic policy unit, it will tackle issues over a horizon of three, five, 10 years and even beyond, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

The unit is a major push in the Government's ongoing effort to improve coordination among ministries and agencies.

With the better coordination at "the centre of government", these organisations can better develop policies and programmes which are in line with overall government objectives, Mr Teo added.

It will be formed in July, come under the Prime Minister's Office and be led by the head of the civil service, Mr Peter Ong.

Mr Teo, who is the Minister- in-charge of the civil service, was speaking at the annual Administrative Service Dinner and Promotion Ceremony last night.

He told the audience of elite public servants that the unit will be kept "small and nimble".

In particular, it will look at how a certain policy has knock-on effects, trade-offs or synergistic possibilities with other government programmes or services.

In recent years, new units to lead and coordinate whole-of-government work on specific areas like population, climate change and municipal issues have been set up, noted Mr Teo.

"But as issues become more complex and inter-connected... it may not be tenable or desirable to keep setting up new outfits for each area," he said.

The strategic policy unit will play three primary roles.

One, it will "anticipate and tackle" medium to long-term national issues, and be responsible for strategically allocating resources in terms of budget, manpower, and even land to meet the priorities.

While ministries will remain responsible for policies in their own areas, the unit will "join the dots" across initiatives, said Mr Teo.

Two, it will nurture new functions and capabilities required in the public sector.

DPM Teo gave the example of the current need to build up engineering capabilities in the public service.

Three, it will take the lead on issues which do not now fall under any ministry or agency.

The unit will provide a platform for different agencies to come together to resolve current issues, and where appropriate, identify the agency most appropriate to spearhead the work.

In his speech, Mr Teo also called on the administrative service officers to live up to the values of excellence, incorruptibility and meritocracy that founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who died on March 23, instilled in the public sector.

A total of 73 administrative officers will be promoted this year.

Among them is Dr Fereen Liew, 35, director of operations at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

Reflecting on the importance of cross-government work, she said: "In today's context, health care policy is no longer purely a healthcare issue.

"During a disease outbreak for example, there are security concerns, economic considerations, and more often than not, social issues."


This article was first published on April 2, 2015.
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