SINGAPORE - The Government faces a challenge of retaining the public's trust in a new and more challenging environment, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Wednesday.
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Here is DPM Tharman's full speech released by the Ministry of Finance (MOF):
I would first like to congratulate the officers who have been promoted, and those who have been appointed into the Administrative Service.
This is also a fitting occasion to pay tribute to two permanent secretaries who have recently retired from the Administrative Service.
Mr Chiang Chie Foo retired from the Administrative Service after 32 years of outstanding public service. He served in key positions, including as Director, ISD where he strengthened ISD's capabilities and operational effectiveness; as PS (Education) where he oversaw the review and implementation of key policies affecting all levels of education; as PS (PMO) where he looked after population issues and challenges and oversaw the setting up of the National Population and Talent Division; and as PS (Defence) where he oversaw 3G SAF and greater recognition for NSMen amongst other key developments. We look forward to Chie Foo's continuing contributions, now as Chairman of the CPF Board.
Mr Bilahari Kausikan retired from the Administrative Service after a distinguished 31 year career at MFA. Bilahari represented Singapore overseas as our Ambassador to Russia, the United Nations, Canada and Mexico. He defended Singapore's interests at the UN, laying the groundwork for our historic election as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. Bilahari also served 13 years as PS (Foreign Affairs) where he was instrumental in the successful negotiations with Malaysia on the Points of Agreement, as well as fostering closer ties with the US and our ASEAN neighbours. We look forward to Bilahari's continued contributions as Ambassador-at-large and Policy Advisor at MFA.
RETAINING PUBLIC TRUST
We concluded the Budget and Committee of Supply Debate two weeks ago. We have embarked on new directions in our economic and social strategies, focused on achieving quality growth, that helps uplift all Singaporeans, and on ensuring that ours is an inclusive society. We are restructuring our economy to enable sustained improvement of incomes; opening up new opportunities for the young; we are honouring our Pioneer Generation; and we are giving more assurance to the seniors of tomorrow. Beyond these long term policy commitments, we are also working hard in Government to address immediate challenges, in housing supply and the capacity of our public transport system.
These are each major policy priorities aimed at improving the well-being of Singaporeans. They will occupy us for years to come, and we must put full effort into implementing them well.
However, underlying this policy agenda is a broader challenge, of retaining public trust in Government in a new and more challenging social and economic environment.
It is a challenge all around the world. Trust in governments has fallen in many countries in recent years, possibly because of declining economic well-being, a growing sense of polarisation in society, and the lack of effective government responses.
The Edelman Barometer of Trust has been tracking public trust in governments for more than a decade in a range of countries from Sweden to Singapore - they survey 1000 people in each country each year. Public trust in most governments, and in government leaders, has fallen. In more than half of the countries surveyed last year, the majority of their populations no longer trust governments to do what is right.
Fortunately, trust in government as an institution, as well as trust in government leaders, has remained significantly higher in Singapore in recent years than for the global average in this survey. This is consistent with the findings from the large-scale OSC survey that we did in 2012 - where a large majority of Singaporeans were of the view that the Government was managing Singapore well and addressing the longer-term challenges facing the country. However, a smaller majority felt that the Government understood the concerns of the people or explained policies well, indicating room for improvement in these areas.
We cannot read too much into perception surveys, or take too much comfort from them. But the broad conclusions are clear enough. We operate today from a position of broad public confidence in the Government, and equally, we have to work hard to keep this trust in Government that has been built up over the years. Nothing is permanent, and the ease with which trust has slipped in many countries is instructive. It is a warning.
No government can function effectively without the trust of the public. But it also matters more for us in Singapore, compared to larger and older countries. If we fail to manage public trust, and if we end up with the deep scepticism about government seen in many other countries, it will reduce our space for manoeuvre, both in making difficult domestic policy decisions in Singaporeans' long term interests and in managing our external relations. The civil service, working with political leaders, must therefore do all we can to preserve and build on public trust in Government.