Able leaders reduce risk of revolving door politics

Able leaders reduce risk of revolving door politics
Air traffic controllers at the Singapore Air Traffic Control Centre, which DPM Teo said he visited recently. He said he meets public officers from different ministries and agencies regularly and wants to ensure that “good people continue to want to come forward to join the public service”.

To avoid the scenario of public servants running rings around their ministers, Singapore needs politicians of the highest quality, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

Politicians coming and going while senior civil servants run the show is what British political comedy Yes, Prime Minister depicts, he said. "The reality, however... will not give rise to much mirth," said Mr Teo, who is the Minister-in- charge of the Civil Service.

On Tuesday, Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) warned that such a scenario is not improbable as Singapore's political system becomes more vibrant.

Said Mr Teo: "I agree with her that revolving door politics raises the risk of that happening, where civil servants are more able, stay longer and therefore know more than their ministers, and may well run rings around them."

That is indeed what happens in other countries, he added.

"The best way to avoid this is to ensure that we have MPs and ministers of the highest quality - people with ability and the interest of Singaporeans at heart.

"That will give us the best outcome: able, elected political leaders with a good feel of the ground working hand-in-hand with able and committed public officers to develop sound policies with the long-term future of Singapore in mind, to implement practical programmes that serve the needs of Singaporeans."

He also gave an overview of what is being done to develop the public service.

There are opportunities at all levels for leaders to train, upskill and upgrade, he said.

The Government has also widened its outreach and recruits people with different backgrounds, skills and experience. Ordinary citizens can also play a role. Since 2009, awards have been given to members of the public who have helped the public service do better.

"It takes two hands to clap and the public service is sincere in wanting to work together with Singaporeans in partnership," said Mr Teo. He also hoped MPs would support and encourage public officers who do a good job.

"It will help give them a boost - motivate them to do their best, and re-affirm their belief that the work they do makes a difference to Singapore and our fellow Singaporeans."

This article was first published on May 30, 2014.
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