Balance meritocracy with equal opportunities

Balance meritocracy with equal opportunities

SINGAPORE - While I laud the plea against "punishing achievers" and elitism ("Don't punish achievers" by Mr Paul Sim Ruiqi; June 10), the idea of a compassionate meritocracy falls short of ensuring that meritocracy functions well.

Meritocracy should be balanced with fair and equal opportunities for all, and ensuring that systemic and institutional discrimination does not exist in social arrangements.

The onus is on the State to ensure the availability of quality resources to all, regardless of socio-economic background, before the inequality in wealth distribution entrenches inequality in resource distribution.

This has to be coupled with greater transparency, accountability and safeguards against the deficiency of regulatory systems - rather than "compassionate meritocracy".

Without such safeguards, the incentives for corporate misconduct and discriminatory practices are greater, as are the costs imposed on society.

This does not mean that elitism should be condoned. We should be striving for a compassionate society as a whole, rather than simply a "compassionate meritocracy".

Everyone should be encouraged to contribute to the society we call home, according to their means and regardless of the benefits they have derived from meritocracy.

I fear that by promoting a mere "compassionate meritocracy", we might pave the way for the society Mr Sim advises against: one divided into beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries, those contributing to society and those not. People should contribute to society because it is their home, and not based on the utility they have gained from society.

In the words of Batman: "It is about doing what's right because it's right, and that is the only reason you need."

Geeva Gopalkrishnan

This article was first published on June 18, 2014.
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