Speaking at the annual public service leadership dinner at Shangri-La hotel on Friday (17 Jan), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the the public service needs to work with a first-class political leadership for Singapore to succeed.
“Leadership does matter, and political leaders play a specific, vital role in… our system of government”
PM Lee explained that if the country is politically divided, or if the political leaders are well-meaning but mediocre, then a competent civil service would only be able to keep the country going on “autopilot” for some time.
“The civil service, under these circumstances, cannot launch major policy initiatives, set new directions, or mobilise the population to mount a national response to major challenges”.
Additionally, if the political leaders are not quite up to the mark, the public service then could not function well.
“I hope these values will endure beyond the next political generation and continue to be upheld by successive generations of political leaders in Singapore” he concluded.
Nontheless, netizens on social media appear to disagree with PM Lee.
One netizen Yeo said:
The decline of our civil service under his incompetent watch is all too clear to see. When I was growing up, I often heard of legendary names like George Bogaars, Sim Kee Boon, Ngiam Tong Dow, Philip Yeo … These are men who dared to speak their minds because they were valued for their views even if they differed from the political bosses. But now, name just one prominent civil servant. I cannot even name one. Which Perm Sec dares to speak up in contradiction to their ministers now? Now civil servants spend their time second guessing the ministers – out of fear for their careers. So do you think they have first class political leaders to work with?
Another netizen Alderweireld echoed this view:
Absolutely spot on PM Lee, we need first class political leaders, not third world leaders who are always absent, or sleeping and being yes men in parliament and are more interested in their private sector life than the people. We need those who are genuinely devoted to serving the people rather than those who can't even empathize with ordinary working folks but think they are entitled to be paid millions year after year.
Another netizen Ho felt that his speech was disconnected with reality:
Look at how Heng made a fool out of himself in Parliament when taking on Sylvia. Look at how Dr. Lam handled the PMD issue. Look at how Ong responded on the PSLE certificate saga – are these examples of first class leadership?