SINGAPORE — Speaking at the administrative service’s appointment and promotion ceremony on Tuesday (28 Mar), Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong reminded civil servants must always remain impartial and do work with professional objectivity, while recognising the political context in which Singapore operates.
He expressed concern about the challenges ahead for the country, including income stagnation, rising inequality, and social polarization.
To sustain Singapore’s exceptional story, Mr Wong emphasized the need for conviction of purpose and “all hands on deck” to chart a new way forward for future generations.
Mr Wong further implied that implementing the increase in the Goods & Service Tax (GST) is a “tough call” that he has to make, emphasizing the need to balance the budget and ensure sound and sustainable public finances.
“Believe me, it’s not something I would have liked to introduce in my first Budget as Finance Minister. But we have designed a unique system in Singapore that combines the GST with offsets, and that ensures the GST increase does not hurt the poor.”
While the Public Service is not directly involved in weighing political considerations, Mr Wong reminded that the importance of understanding the government’s priorities, engaging stakeholders, and partnering in nation-building.
“In short, you have to be politically sensitive to do your work effectively. But you should never become politicised, ” he said.
“You must always remain impartial and do your work with professional objectivity, while recognising the political context in which we operate.”
“So, as I’ve said before, please do not try to second guess what you think I or your Ministers will find politically convenient. Instead, give us your best professional judgment, and be candid in sharing your assessments and views because we value your contributions in this manner.”
The majority – if not all – of the comments on Channel News Asia’s Facebook post of its report on Mr Wong’s comments showed scepticism, with many highlighting the apparent partisan practice of the Singapore system.
Many highlighted that the People’s Association is under the control of the People’s Action Party and that non-elected individuals from the party have been appointed as grassroots leaders instead of the elected members of the opposition parties.
Some also noted that civil servants know what would be their fate if they do not do what their incumbent ruling party wants.