SINGAPORE: The challenge of bringing in good people to serve is a “never-ending” one, but the Government must try, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday (May 14), even as he highlights what the “pioneers of our generation” must do to create a brighter future for Singaporeans.
In his speech during the debate on the President’s address, Mr Chan said the need for good people is evident, as people build systems as well as corrupts them. There have been examples of democratic and socialist systems falling, often by people with the wrong motivations, he added.
On the other hand, it is difficult to bring in good people who would sacrifice their personal and family interests for the country, especially when the country is already successful, peaceful and prosperous. “But we must continue to try,” the minister said.
He said the need to find the strongest set of individuals is not just for solving problems, but to prevent future problems from happening in the first place. This means a need for diverse skillsets and perspectives so these can be combined when necessary to tackle the challenges.
And the need to find these good people cannot be left to chance, Mr Chan stressed, adding that the PAP Government will spare no effort to do so and that this applies to both political leadership as well as public service and the business community.
“Agreeing with us is not the pre-requisite. Agreeing to put Singapore first and foremost is the pre-requisite,” he said.
BE “CLEAR-EYED” ABOUT CHALLENGES
Besides attracting good leaders, Mr Chan also warned against the country adopting a conservative mindset.
He said as a society matures, it usually becomes more conservative and choose to uphold existing systems rather than break new grounds. But to be pioneers of our generation, the Government must be “cleared-eyed” about the challenges the country faces.
This means needing to keep up Singapore’s “vitality and verve”.
“It is one thing to be the best-in-class for ports and airports. But it is another, to be even better - ready for tomorrow’s needs, ahead of time,” Mr Chan said. “It is one thing to beat others in a competition, it is another to beat our own standards, even when we are at the top, so that Singaporeans have even better opportunities.”
He pointed out that enterprises must innovate and scale up and be better at translating investments in research and development into new capabilities and enterprise. The Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and Enterprise Singapore will work closely with companies to realise this, and Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat will reveal more details in time to come, he added.
UPHOLDING SOCIAL MOBILITY MUST BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY
Another aspect of a maturing society is that social mobility tends to slow, with social inequality becoming more apparent over time, the minister said.
This, Mr Chan said, is often the result of “social clustering” of people from similar backgrounds as well as human’s natural instinct to pass on wealth and privilege to their next generation.
“If left unchecked, our people may lose faith in our system of meritocracy and this can hurt our social compact,” he warned.
As such, upholding social mobility and making sure the fruits of growth are better distributed to a broad majority is “something that we must take seriously”, Mr Chan said.
Everyone must have a good start and progress to achieve their full potential, which means ensuring opportunities “remain accessible to all who are hardworking, talented and committed”. Additionally, opportunities must not be tied to academic grades, but also the right aptitude and skills, he added.
This echoes what President Halimah Yacob said in her address last week, when she called for inequality to be tackled vigorously.
“We need to provide the right additional support to those needing it – in housing, education, skills training, and employment – so that meritocracy works well. Only then can everyone do well through hard work, talent and skills, regardless of their backgrounds,” Mdm Halimah said then.
Above all, Mr Chan said the “most critical piece” of their work is to rally the nation together.
He exhorted Singaporeans to not be “economic sojourners” but to have a natural instinct to defend what is ours, build upon what the country has and stay put “even when the chips are down”.
“A nation is not just about economic benefits,” the minister said. “It is also about the sense of community and contribution.
“A true nation is one where its people will stay and fight for our future and build it all up even when the chips are down.”