S'PORE IS FAILING BECAUSE TOO MANY PAPER GENERALS ARE IN COMMAND

Over the past few decades, the PAP government has adopted a policy of replacing the top person in a government agency every few years and appointing another person, usually a scholar or an ex army general, without any relevant experience to head that agency. They believe that the new person will be able to manage the work of the agency without the need for experience.

This change of the top leader is usually accompanied by a change of people at the second level. The new leader brings in people that had worked with him previously and use them to replace the senior and experienced people who had worked many years in the agency.

Like the top leader, the new people who were brought into the agency did not have experience in the work of that agency. After the more experiened people had left the agency, the agency is largely devoid of the past experience.

I find this policy to be a bad policy and contributed significantly to the deterioration in the standard of our public service.

ANECDOTE

I wish to share this anecdote about the importance of having experienced people in any organisation

Recently, the air conditioner in my office had technical issues. It keeps tripping and shutting off. I called my regular air con maintenance contractor to fix the problem. The contractor had lost an experienced technician recently and had to rely on outsourced workers. 

The outsource technician, who was relatively young and probably better educated,  came several times to replace one part after another, but the problem keep recurring every few days. They finally recommended that the air con unit be changed. The cost was over $3,000. I found it too expensive, as the unit was still quite new.

I found another air con technician to look at the problem. He was an older person, perhaps not so well educated, but quite experienced. As the air con was still pushing out cold air, he knew that there was nothing wrong with it. He found that the hole which allowed the excess water to seep out had been blocked. This caused the water level in the container to rise and activated the shut off device of the unit. It happed every few days.

He removed the blockage and charged me $100 for the service. It solved the problem. The problem did not recur.

PROBLEMS IN OUR PUBLIC AGENCIES

If our public agencies had retained experienced people, I believe that the following problems could have been prevented or minimized:

1. Breakdown in our MRT trains
2. Failure of the Police in managing the riot in Little India
3. The award of the tender of a temple to a commercial company to build a columbarium
4. The inability of the Monetary Authority to deal with investment scams.

While there is merit in renewing the leadership in our public agencies, it should be done without lossing the valuable years of experience and knowledge of the older and experienced people in the agency. 

A good approach is to get the scholar or ex army general to enter the agency to learn the working and the people in the agency and to appoint them into the top position after five years. They should not be appointed into the top position immediately.

Tan Kin Lian

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