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Bringing 'good people' into Public Service more challenging now: DPM Teo

Singaporeans now have many more opportunites, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean acknowledged, while stressing that much interesting and important civil service work awaits those who take up the challenge.

SINGAPORE: Bringing "good people" into the Public Service is now more challenging than it was in the 1970s or 80s, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.

With the growth of the Singapore economy, DPM Teo noted there are many more attractive opportunities for able Singaporeans. Globalisation and the ease of travel have also opened up more overseas opportunities.

DPM Teo, who is also Minister-in-charge of the Civil Service, was speaking at this year's Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarships Award Ceremony on Tuesday (July 22). There are 82 recipients of the PSC Scholarship this year, who were selected from a pool of over 2,500 applicants.

Addressing the recipients, DPM Teo stressed that there is a lot of interesting and important work that remains to be done. This includes dealing with new and emerging challenges of the future - like keeping Singaporeans safe in a world with violent extremist ideologies, creating jobs of the future and ensuring sustainable growth in the face of limited resources.

Taking care of an ageing population, and engaging a more diverse and educated population, are also areas that need to be addressed. Underlying all this, he said, is the "bottomline" - the well-being of Singaporeans.

Noting that scholarship recipients will be associated with the Singapore Public Service even while studying, Mr Teo called on them to maintain a "high standard of personal conduct" and uphold the reputation of the Public Service and Singapore.

"It is this commitment that the public service will always do its best for our nation and people, that anchors the relationship of trust between Singaporeans and the Government, which enables the Public Service to continue serving Singaporeans effectively," stressed DPM Teo.

Also addressing recipients on Tuesday, chairman of the Public Service Commission, Mr Eddie Teo, noted that good academic results are not enough. He said experience has shown that candidates who do well only academically may not always make good public officers.

"Conversely, a person without straight 'A's can, with the right character, aptitude, hard work and good performance, excel in the Public Service," stressed Mr Teo. The chairman also said he is glad that the scholarship recipients this year continue to come from a variety of schools and backgrounds.  

Among this year’s PSC scholars are Loh Jia Wei, Muhammad Syakir Kamal and Rachel Ker.

Ms Loh, 19, suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which causes muscles in her body to weaken. She is unable to walk or write for a long stretch of time, but her condition is not stopping her from dreaming big. The former Raffles Institution student will head to Oxford University in the UK to read law in October.

"Inevitably I will feel down, sometimes quite upset, because there are certain things I cannot pursue just because of my medical condition. But as people always say, you should focus on things that you are able to do and you still love," she said. "My family members have always been there for me, my friends will always encourage me when there are difficulties. And of course there are my teachers and doctors. I think I actually have this very strong support network. I have been incredibly lucky.”

When she graduates from school, Jia Wei hopes to contribute to society by joining the civil service. "Personally, I find that I have been really privileged and blessed to be born here in Singapore, and generally I feel that I have benefited from the education and amenities here. So I think that I should do my part to give back to society as well.”

Another scholar who shares her sentiments is 21-year-old Muhammad Syakir. The youngest child in his family, he hopes to work in the Education Ministry when he graduates. "I think growing up, the society has given a lot to me, not only in terms of academics, but it has also moulded me as a person, it has instilled in me principles and values. I think the least I can do is to help future generations benefit from society like how I benefited,” he said.

The only scholar to major in social work this year is 19-year-old Rachel Ker. "Ultimately, everything you do in the civil service is for the people. Whatever policies you make, whatever initiatives you have, it is for the lives of people, so that they are able to have better lives, better economies. The public service is meant for the people, and this whole notion is very aligned to my beliefs,” she said.

The PSC scholars will join the civil service in either policy formation and implementation, the uniformed service, or the professional service, which is divided into the foreign, legal or teaching service.

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