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Public service leaders must have courage to advise ministers even when they disagree: SM Teo

meaninglesslife

Stupidman
Loyal

Public service leaders must have courage to advise ministers even when they disagree: SM Teo​

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Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean called on the public service leadership to continue its strong partnership with the 4G leaders. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Jean Iau
Correspondent
UPDATED

MAR 26, 2024, 10:22 PM

SINGAPORE – Having the courage to speak up even when they disagree with their ministers is an integral principle that civil servants must have if the Singapore system is to keep working, said Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean.
On their part, political leaders must have the courage to make and stand by decisions that are in the best interest of Singapore and Singaporeans, he added.

“Particularly when painful or unpopular, (political leaders must) make the case for them and bring the electorate along,” said SM Teo in his speech at the annual Administrative Service dinner on March 26.

He recounted a scene in the British political satire sitcom Yes, Minister, where fictitious permanent secretary Humphrey Appleby explains to a younger colleague that telling a minister a decision is “controversial” meant it might lose him votes, while calling it “courageous” meant it might lose him the election.
While the dialogue was tongue-in-cheek, Mr Teo said it exposes a truth: that many polities are now increasingly susceptible to “short-term, politically expedient, populist policies” made to secure votes.
“We are, thankfully, not in an episode of Yes, Minister. In government – in Cabinet and in our ministries – we need to continue to have debate and a diversity of views in a professional manner but without fear or favour,” Mr Teo told 320 high-potential and senior public service officers.

He cited how, as a young political officeholder, he benefited from the wise counsel of many senior public service leaders. They included Mr Ngiam Tong Dow in the Ministry of Finance, Mr Tan Gee Paw in the then Ministry of the Environment, and later Mr Wee Heng Tin in the Education Ministry and Mr Lim Siong Guan, when he headed the Civil Service.

“They spoke and acted with integrity and courage, and I have great respect for them,” said Mr Teo. He said he reminds himself these days to listen and learn from younger officers so that they are encouraged to share their considered views and to justify them.

Making a similar call, Singapore Civil Service head Leo Yip urged public service leaders to provide honest advice to political leaders.

Besides speaking truth to power, civil servants need also to “bring power to truth”, which is to convince ministers through the conviction behind their ideas and advice, said Mr Yip in his speech.

“It must be the conviction in your advice, as much as the persuasiveness of your argument, that helps our decision makers to discern the right choices,” he said at the event at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. The dinner was also an appointment and promotion ceremony of the Administrative Service. This year, 25 administrative officers were appointed and 62 were promoted.

Once the time for debate is over, civil servants must then implement with conviction the political decisions and policy choices made by the ministers, Mr Yip added. “We can have this conviction because we work so closely with our ministers and understand the reasons for those policy choices.”

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Singapore Civil Service head Leo Yip urged public service leaders to provide honest advice to political leaders. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

In his speech, Mr Teo listed four other Cs besides courage that have ensured a fundamental alignment between generations of the Republic’s political and public service leaders, even when there were differing views on specific policies or their implementation.

These are: working to keep the world connected and open; using creativity to tackle Singapore’s challenges; unceasing effort to ensure the country stays cohesive; and creating continuity of leadership in Government.

Hewing to these principles will build a strong partnership between the new generation of political and public service leaders that ensures that Singapore remains united in mission, and can successfully navigate an operating environment marked by disconnect, disruption and division, said Mr Teo.

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Guests at the annual Administrative Service dinner held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on March 26. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

He said Singapore had successfully handed over the reins of responsibility across three generations of political leadership while maintaining the vision, drive and integrity that provide the quality of governance that has helped it to survive and thrive. While he has every confidence in the next transition, having worked with the fourth-generation (4G) leaders for many years, he said others will seek to test the new leadership.

“(They would want to) see if we are united, to see whether we continue to have the strength and mettle to defend and further Singapore’s interests, and whether we will continue to be a steadfast and reliable partner,” he said.

He called on the public service leadership to continue its strong partnership with the 4G. “All of you in this room have a part to play in ensuring that we continue to have a capable, competent and committed government, so that we can continue to have a strong and united Singapore for the benefit of Singaporeans,” said Mr Teo.
 

congo9

Alfrescian
Loyal
It's only a job, why get so serious over it ? The Minister got paid so highly and you are expected to go against his wishes if he don't like it.
 

VanDick

Alfrescian
Loyal
Are the so-called public service leaders brave enough to advice the political leaders to abolish the Ceca program? Can they advice Vivian not to be such a big mouth?
 
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