Implementing the reform agenda

from: Donald Low’s FC/

Instead of its leadership fetish, the PAP government must “widen its aperture” and put in place the mechanisms to foster debate, dissent and creative tension in the system. It has to look to dissidents down the ranks as well as outside of the establishment to find new, untested but potentially workable ideas. David Petraeus, the only divisional commander in the US Armed Forces to run a successful campaign in the first year of the Iraq war, and who later as commander of the US forces in Iraq launched a successful counter-insurgency strategy, succeeded because he reached downwards and outwards to get diverse views. Early in his Army career, Petraeus had served as an aide to a Major General Jack Galvin, a veteran of the Vietnam War. Galvin had seen the disastrous consequences of the lack of honest bottom-up feedback in Vietnam. He was one of the writers of the Pentagon Papers documenting why the war in Vietnam was failing. Galvin told the young Captain Petraeus that his job as an aide was to criticise his boss. Ministers and senior civil servants in the Singapore government need to ask the same of their people.

The government should also rethink the purpose and compensation of the Administrative Service. It is not apparent that Singapore still needs an elite service in government that is paid substantially more than the rest of the civil service. It is bad for morale and productivity (how would you feel if you were doing the same job as a younger Administrative Officer who is paid twice as much as you?), and it reinforces the leadership delusion and elitism that have stunted the adaptive capacity of the system. While it is not a bad idea to have a group of policymakers who are rotated and given exposure in a wide range of jobs, it is not clear at all that this privilege should be accompanied by significantly higher salaries and lifetime pensions.

Read the entire article HERE.