SINGAPORE – The scenario of public servants running rings around hapless ministers may be amusing in fiction, but it is something Singapore must avoid, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Parliament on Thursday.
On Tuesday, Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) had warned of that scenario, depicted in the British political comedy Yes, Prime Minister. “The reality, however, should it come to pass, will not give rise to much mirth,” said Mr Teo, who is the Minister in charge of the Civil Service.
“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.”
But 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.”
Mr Teo 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. Public Service Commission scholarships go to students from a range of schools, including polytechnics, the National University of Singapore High School of Mathematics and Science, and the School of the Arts.