atans1

Why cabinet can’t do bold new ideas

In Political governance, Public Administration on 06/03/2018 at 10:04 am

And why ministers can only talk cock sing song, repeating mantras or clichés about Hard Truths: think about the comments about GST and the reserves.

Last Saturday, I read in the FT

“By appointing people with like minds but with a wide range of professional backgrounds . . . we can discuss things with an open mind and go beyond past ways of doing things to speedily implement bold new ideas.”

Toyota’s president on Toyota’s appointing the first female director, a senior Japanese banker

This led me to think about our cabinet.

With the exception of two doctors and a private sector lawyer, the rest of cabinet (85%) came from the public sector*. All but three were senior officers of three bureaucratic, command and control and hierarchical organisations: SAF, the civil service (which effectively means the admin service: there’s only one “civil service” minister that’s not from the admin service) and NTUC. Two of the remaining three were executives from GLCs (SingTel and PSA) and other was an academic from a local university.

So how to expect creative thinking, let alone commercial, financial or business expertise?


The Spartan who defeated Athens

By the end of the 5th century BC, the superiority of the Athenian Navy had long gone, and the Spartans were more than a match for the Athenians at sea … Firstly, the Spartan Navy had significantly improved. Naval warfare had traditionally been seen as ‘cowardly’ by the Spartans, but this attitude began to change as Lysander gained authority. The illegitimate son of an aristocrat, Lysander grew up in relative poverty. It was perhaps his unusual upbringing that allowed him to think differently from the Spartan norm. He painstakingly made his way up the ranks and was finally given a position of authority in his mid-forties, when he was made the Spartan Admiral in 407. Lysander borrowed heavily from the Achaemenid Empire and used the money to purchase ships and crews; the Spartans were finally a proper naval force.n his

http://www.warhistoryonline.com/guest-bloggers/final-blow-lysander-aegospotami.html

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The first PAP cabinet in 1959 (and for at least a decade  and a half thereafter) was diversity in action. There were private sector lawyers, civil servants and businessmen.

Later, there was a local executive from HP (then a respected tech MNC), the MD of Shell’s local operations and two bankers. OK, OK, one banker was from a bank where his uncle was the chairman, although uncle was not the controlling shareholder. Before that he was an academic. And when in the bank, he was considered by many outsider bankers an improvement to the usual OCBC senior managers. The other banker was originally from the civil service but he was transferred to DBS.

Things went downhill in terms of diversity since the day when several ex-SAF generals were made ministers. To be fair to one Goh Chok Tong, he tried to bring diversity back by bringing one VivianB into the cabinet. But in 2005 or 2006, he told Cheong Yip Seng (ST editor appointed by one Harry Lee)) that he was disappointed that VivianB had “become like the others”. In fact, VivianB went one step worse than the other PAP ministers, he openly sneered at the elderly poor.

Btw, the PAP administration is so desperate to show that it has private sector experience and expertiste that one minister who in his younger days was in the admin service was said in his cabinet CV to have joined the private sector*. He worked in S’pore Technologies and Temasek.

This would be hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetically tragic for S’pore.


*Many yrs ago, I “discovered” that official data classified all 100%  govt owned cos incorporated under the Companies Act as “private companies”. Hence the huge discrepency between official data and a report from the US embassy on state participation in the economy.

 

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