MFA is not as productive as its US, UK counterparts?

In Financial competency, Humour, Political governance on 31/10/2012 at 6:04 am

I came across the above table in a Special Report on India in the Economist. Tharoor was using this data to show that India was shortchanging itself diplomatically because it had about the same number of diplomats as S’pore. From my perspective, it is not productive that S’pore, a little red speck, has one diplomat for 6,000 S’poreans. Even the hegemon makes do with only one diplomat for every 16,000. people. It isn’t only SMEs that contribute to the productivity gap.  And the British, supposedly overstaffed, have one fat toff per 10,000 people.

No wonder the photo in ST of one George Yeo shows a rather thin man. No more living off the fat like his diplomats?

Wonder what our Asean neighbours’ per capita numbers are? I’m sure that they have numbers  closer to that of China or India than to the US.

Yes, yes, I left out the fact that the population of S’pore is “peanuts” compared to the US etc, and that there is likely to be an absolute minimum number of diplomats needed for efficiency, but if ministers and the local media regularly boast about S’pore’s per capita numbers, I’m juz using the same stick: to beat the BSers.

Finally, I wonder if our NS men are given the same line I waz given yrs ago. When I waz doing NS in the mid 70s, I waz told that we, had to fight, to buy time for our diplomats, to get the UN, USA etc to intervene. In the early 80s, I attended a course with some senior diplomats. I told them what I was tot. They rolled their eyes and said if the SAF had to go to war, MFA had already failed. No point asking US, UN for help.

Given one LKY liked to annoy the neighbours regularly, maybe MFA was doing a good job?

  1. A good post. People has been conned into believing Singapore is #1 in everything which is definitely not true. For example, test scores #1 but I have no doubt Singapore students are nowhere close to #1.

  2. I agree that MFA can be more efficient. It is currently too top-heavy. Just go to and look for MFA’s list of “senior” officials. They have too many officials that they still cannot let go so they just continue to put them on the payroll whether it’s on a permanent or contract basis. Even some MFA officials privately acknowledge them as “deadwood”. Officially, they are there to share their diplomatic experience or old “battle” stories which they would happily regale any poor soul forced to listem to them.

  3. Power of diplomacy in 21st century. Great insights and that’s the thing with our obsession with ‘1’ fails. Except SQ (which is dangerously losing to ME airlines) I don’t see any current world class stuff today.

  4. Sir, they aren’t taken off the books by being packed off to some thinktanks. It’s just for a selected few, and honestly, there are only so many thinktanks to send them off to (and not many want to go there anyway). Go take a look at MFA’s You’ll see many many consultants, senior advisors and directors (special duties). It’s way too top-heavy for an organisation.

  5. […] Prata Politics: SMRT vs Legless Thai Girl – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: MFA is not as productive as its US, UK counterparts? – Loh and Behold: Please Mind the Gap, and Why Laser Flair at Funan […]

  6. I heard that MFA has the highest bar of entry in the whole public service. Not only the candidate must be presentable looking (above average), the candidate must be eloquent, quick witted and have a flair for writing. Diplomat’s weapon is their tongue, you can guess how bitchy MFA working environment is.

    Gerald Giam was from MFA isn’t it? I don’t see that he debated well in Parliament.

  7. Hahaha,a rather thin man,Sir,you are good.respect & Cheers

  8. […] Prata Politics: SMRT vs Legless Thai Girl – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: MFA is not as productive as its US, UK counterparts? – Loh and Behold: Please Mind the Gap, and Why Laser Flair at Funan […]

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