The ex-head of the civil service and now chairman of the Public Service Commission showed he “got it” when he said at a recent speech in the US to S’pore scholars: If we strive to be world-class, we will be judged by world-class standards. If we say that we have one of the best governments in the world, the public will expect it to solve virtually any problem Singapore faces.
But he showed he didn’t “get it” when he went on: Some of our citizens are now beginning to expect the government to do the impossible. Many citizens are now less prepared to give the government room to make mistakes and are less forgiving and more demanding. They tend to regard explanations as excuses. Take the recent floods. To some Singaporeans, saying that floods are natural disasters and Singapore cannot be flood-free, sounds like a cop out. Every time something goes wrong in Singapore, citizens ask: “If our public servants and Ministers are so smart and paid so well, why can’t they prevent the problem from occurring, or solve it for good after it occurs?”
He is assuming that the “explanations” given explained what had happened. He should relook this assumption.
Juz look at some of the recent “explanations” that have been given for goof-ups or incidents that caused public inconvenience. Are we wrong in thinking sume people were trying to avoid responsibility?
When MPs asked why the flat of Mas Selamat’s brother was not watched, they were told by the Home Affairs minister that that Mas Selamat could go undetected in the flat “was not a security lapse’ and that hundreds were probed . Err how abt answering the question, “Why wasn’t the flat watched?”
As to the floods, I could not understand the minister’s and senior officials’ explanations. I only “got it” when, on an inside page of ST, it was reported that more rain had fallen in a few hours than it had for days on end i.e. it was very, very heavy rainfall in a very short space of time. Point taken. But this explanation by a junior official was buried deep inside ST, and I’m sure many would have missed reading it. The front page “explanations” failed to give this fact, or where they did, this fact was lost in the smoke of hot air.
The problem is that the “explanations” given often ignore the question, assume that S’poreans are morons or that we are educated, and refuse to admit that mistakes were made. Perhaps PSC should run courses to train scholars to be less arrogant; to admit to making mistakes; and to write in simple, believable prose? One gets the impression that ministers and civil servants attend courses where they are taught not to ever admit making a mistake; and to avoid answering questions.
It wasn’t always like this. When one LKY was PM, mistakes were admitted; and explanations were given in simple and understandable English. I wonder how GCT or LHL would have explained why and how we were kicked out of M’sia, and what was the future of S’pore post-demerger?
And on economical and financial matters, no minister post-1991 has matched the simplicity of Dr Goh’s radio talks and articles.
But let’s be fair: MoE did admit that a scholarship was given to a peeping-tom because the boy’s teachers got some things wrong. He was recently convicted in England for possession of child pornography. But what if the balls-up had been made by officers higher up the food chain? I mean teachers are the lowest of the low in the education food chain, or so I’ve been assured by teachers.