Labour chief Chan Chun Sing speaks at the Temasek Polytechnic graduation ceremony (Source: The Straits Times).

Chan says that diversity in leadership needed, even as government lacks succession plans and is seen as elitist

Speaking to this year’s Public Service Commission (PSC) scholarship recipients on Wednesday (17 Jul), Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing said that there is a need for a diversity of experience within the Singapore’s leadership.

This is particularly because the issues facing Singapore will become increasingly complex. Drawing an analogy, the 4G leader said that we “need to be like a Swiss knife so that we will have the diverse skill sets within Team Singapore for us to overcome the challenges together.”

He then cited an example of Singapore’s limited water supply and how the country has ”transcended the limitations of our size and geography.”

“If we do not have enough water, we will make sure we build sufficient capacity for us never to be held ransom. If we are a small country without resources and sufficient market, we are determined to build the links to connect ourselves to the rest of the world”.

There were 93 scholarships were awarded to recipients from 15 different schools.“Our promise to each and every generation of Singaporeans is this: that so long as you are capable and committed, our country will provide you with the best opportunities possible for you to fulfil your potential”.

How PAP’s leadership selection made them out of touch with the common people

Despite meritocracy being one of the key aspects of Singapore’s rule, Professor Michael Barr at the Filders University said that “meritocracy is real – but only among a pre-selected group”

He attributed the roots of this to what the late Lee Kuan Yew believed leaders should be: English-educated, highly qualified academically and professionally experienced. As Singapore did not have enough people of such, he created the SAF Overseas Scholarship to breed such people.

As the Singapore Armed Forces evolved into being a breeding ground for future government leaders, this has had some impact on how the top leadership behaved.

Dr. Chee Soon Juan noted in a blog post that after “a meteor-like rise through the ranks, many of these high-achievers are farmed out as corporate chieftains to one of a plethora of government-linked companies (GLCs).” However, the “reality is never quite as awesome”

Citing examples such as Ng Yat Chung, Desmond Kuek and Lui Tuck Yew, Chee believed that these Ministers have led their parent organisations to failure but were shielded from any negative repurcussions.

“[Former Chief of Navy] Lui Tuck Yew, joined the PAP and stood for elections in 2006. He was subsequently appointed transport minister whose unfortunate portfolio included having to do battle with a devilishly uncooperative train system”.

“The trains won, of course. After a major system disruption in 2015 that caused much public unhappiness just before the elections, Mr Lui threw in the towel and chose not to stand for re-election. No worries, though, he was appointed ambassador to Japan in 2017”.

Back in 2014, Straits Time opinion editor already warned  that “the gulf between rich and poor Singaporeans, not only in terms of wealth but also in terms of values, is probably more than ever before, and is continuing to widen.”

Observers: Singapore’s lack of a succession plan does not inspire confidence

Not only has the disconnect shaped Singapore’s governance, so has the succession planning within the PAP.

The issue has been such an urgent on that on the last day of 2017, former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said in a Facebook post that “one urgent challenge I would like to see settled is our fourth generation leadership” and hopes that a leader would be identified within 6 to 9 months.

Former TODAY editor P N Balaji has summed up the issue in a CNN article when he said that a“ smooth and predictable handover has been a Singapore hallmark which made the country a haven for investors and foreigners flocking to put in their money and sink roots here”.

Given that PM Lee Hsien Loong has said that he would aim to give up his seat by the next election, Balaji added that the lack of a successor is “making this safe haven a little unpredictable, even a little vulnerable”.

According to a separate article by the South China Morning Post, the fact that “the successor may not be known for another year may not inspire confidence in the 4G leadership.”Given the more pressing challenges in leadership, what do you think of Chan’s thoughts?