Book 4-5 Good Governance 1. General Concepts – Key ingredients of good governance a.

Good governance means the ability of a government in delivering and implementing good policies in and efficient and effective way for the benefit of the people. b. The only way this will happen if: i. The government is composed of good leadership and makes decisions based on good and sound principles ii. The civil service practices meritocracy, is honest and open (responsive) iii. The people are loyal and committed in spirit and action to the country c. Policies are like action plans d. Principles are guides – e.g. values e. In short – HOW DOES THE GOVERNMENT ENSURE THE PEOPLE ARE TAKEN CARED OF? 2. What are the different principles in good governance?. a. Pragmatism means using practical solutions to problems. It refers to workable and result oriented policies (actions/plans). i. An example of this would be how Singapore used the opendoor policy to industrialise in the 1960s because it was the best solution to our economic problems such as unemployment then. ii. An open door policy was risky because it meant foreign companies could control Singapore’s economy. iii. But MNCs had the know-how (expertise), money (capital) and markets (places to sell the products and make money), while Singapore did not. iv. We could learn from them and also solve unemployment. v. Therefore, Singapore decided pragmatically, to use the open door policy to solve the serious problem of unemployment and also learn from these MNCs to be more successful in the future. vi. Pragmatism was also shown in the recession of 1985. vii. To tackle the high unemployment during the recession, the government decided to lower business cost by reducing company taxes. viii. More importantly, it took an unpopular decision to reduce wages and employer’s CPF contributions; this meant lower pay for workers. ix. But the policies worked and the economy recovered within 2 years. x. Practical solutions to real problems thus means the government must be willing to use solutions that may lead to unhappiness but is ultimately for the good of the country and people. xi. Another example of this would be how Singapore uses the ERP (electronic road pricing) to control the car population and more importantly, its usage on the roads. xii. Controlling traffic congestion is important as crowded roads means businesses and all other activities would be slowed down. This would drive away investors. xiii. At the same time, the government recognizes Singaporeans’ desire to own cars.


xiv. Thus to solve the problem of ownership and usage, the government introduced ERP where car owners would have to pay for the use of important roads such as the expressways. xv. This was unpopular but it helped to make sure traffic continued to flow even during peak hours – helps businesses operate. b. The government is also guided by being forward-looking. It means we need to anticipate challenges and make preparations for them. i. One example of this is the water policy. Singapore is dependent on Malaysia for 50% of her water needs. However, the first agreement will end in 2011, while the 2nd in 2061. ii. However, there have been many disagreements over the issue of water between Singapore and Malaysia. iii. To ensure Singapore continues to have adequate water supply, Singapore has been looking for alternative sources of water. iv. One method was to build water desalination plants. The 1st one is being constructed in Tuas and is expected to be completed by end 2005. v. Another method is to increase the Newater production so that we can reduce or even end our dependence on Malaysia vi. Thus, this shows how Singapore is preparing for the future way ahead of time. vii. Another example is removal of pig and duck rearing in Singapore since the late 1970s. viii. These industries posed a serious pollution threat as the waste product resulted in foul smell (restrict land usage around farms in already land scarce Singapore) and harmful pollutants (pollutes our waterways – water is scarce too). Hence, by removing them, we could expand our land and water resources. ix. Similarly, the highly polluted Singapore and Kallang rivers were cleared of the severe pollution caused by the loading and unloading of goods via boats and barges. This opened up more possibilities for other more high-value commercial developments such as restaurants and shopping centres along the rivers. x. It also opened up recreational and tourism possibilities e.g. water skiing and river tours. xi. Therefore, being forward looking helps avert possible problems with our water supply in the future as well as maximize Singapore’s land resource for cleaner and higher-value use. c. Meritocracy also plays an important role. This principle means that we reward hard work and talent. By adhering to this principle, we motivate people to do better as well as get the best man for the job. i. One way this policy works is through educational policies. For example, regardless of race, language, religion, class backgrounds or even who you know (connections with influential people), scholarships are given out to those who have performed well in their studies and CCAs. ii. Bursaries are also given to students based on need rather than based on who they are. iii. Students who have special talents such as arts or sports are also given opportunities to advance their talents e.g. elective programmes such as MEP and AEP or the Singapore Sports School. iv. ECAs (Extra-Curricular Activities) such as NPCC and NCC also allowed different races to interact in common activities.


v. All the above helped to foster social cohesion among young Singaporeans. vi. Students in schools are also constantly taught that hard work and talent are the paths to success. This reinforces the attitude of achievement in younger generations. vii. Meritocracy is also practiced in other parts in the government (see section on civil service and government leadership in this set of notes). d. Principle of Fairness is also very important in keeping peace and harmony in multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious Singapore. i. One policy that does this is multi-racialism. This means giving equal status to each race and religion e.g. the four official languages are English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. ii. Favouring any group is illegal. iii. We enjoy religious harmony and freedom – which means we can practice our religions but must always be sensitive to other’s feelings. iv. This has contributed to peace and harmony in Singapore, where we respect and tolerate each other, taking steps to make sure we do not offend each other. v. Another policy that helps maintain fairness is the policy on minority representation. vi. This policy makes sure that at least one Member of Parliament in a group of six MPs is a minority. This system is known as the GRC (Group Representative Constituency) system. vii. MPs represent the people, so it is very important for minorities to be represented in the most important law making organization in Singapore, the Parliament. viii. This gives minority groups such as the Malays, Indians and Eurasians a voice in the government. ix. Also, it makes sure that the country is run through the combined leadership of all the main racial groups in Singapore. x. This would help our people stay peaceful and committed to a common future for Singapore. e. Finally, the principle of transparency makes sure that the government is accountable to the people – reasons for laws and policies/actions are always explained to the people. This would help win people’s support for the government because they can trust the government to manage Singapore honestly and effectively for the people’s benefit. This is extremely important as people would support the government even if it implements policies that are unpopular. So long as most Singaporeans are convinced the government has their interest at heart, they would help to make the policy a success (see pragmatism also). i. One example of this principle in action is the policy on selfhelp ii. For a long time, the government has been trying to help weaker students from lower income families do better in school and overcome social problems. iii. It was also racially sensitive as many of these weaker students came from the minority races. iv. In the 1980s, the government decided it was time and probably better for the different races to form self-help groups to help these less-privileged students since they knew their own culture better and would be more motivated to help. 3

v. Thus CDAC, MENDAKI, SINDA and EA were formed. This shows that the government was open about even the difficult issues. 3. What role does the Civil Service play/why is it important to keep the civil service honest, efficient and open? a. The civil service is an important organization. b. It is the implementer of policies from the government. c. Without them, policies cannot be carried out. d. They are also the bridge between the people and the government. e. The civil service is where most people would interact with the government. Likewise, it is also through the civil service that the government can find out if the policies are working. f. Therefore an honest and efficient civil service is very important, otherwise the connection is broken. g. Businesses will also be attracted to Singapore if the civil service provides quality service. This is because an efficient and honest civil service would make it easier for businesses to do business here. 4. What keeps the civil service efficient? a. Meritocracy helps keep the civil service effective and efficient by recruiting officers who possess good academic qualifications. i. By giving scholarships to the top scholars in the country, it will ensure that the some of the top students will end up working for the civil service. ii. All the other officers employed must have good or adequate qualifications and possess good character. iii. Officers who have performed well will be rewarded with performance bonuses. Some of them would also be promoted. iv. However, those with poor performance would be placed on probation and given some time to improve. Failure to do so will result in dismissal. v. In this way, the civil service recruits and maintains good quality officers who could then carry out their duties effectively and efficiently. b. The Civil Service is also kept efficient by maintaining honesty. i. Corruption/corrupt behavior is not tolerated in the civil service. Any breach of this behavior will be severely dealt with. ii. Applicants who have previously been convicted of any crime or have shown dubious backgrounds will not be recruited in the first place. iii. Whenever the civil service needs to purchase any product or service from private companies, there is tender system that ensures contracts for these services and products are awarded to the most competitive bidder. iv. The CPIB (Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau) was also set up to ensure that all officers, regardless of rank and position, would be subjected to investigation and arrest. This is why the CPIB is placed directly under the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister’s Office. v. Corrupted officials will be removed from service and prosecuted under criminal law. vi. Thus, by maintaining a strong deterrent message and an effective CPIB, the civil service upholds honesty, and hence, effectiveness in the civil service.


c. The 3rd way to ensure civil service effectiveness is to encourage openness in the service. i. In order for the civil service to perform its task as an implementer of policies and a bridge between the government and people, the civil service needs to be open/responsive to the people’s needs and enquries. ii. This will help win the trust of the people and help the civil service carry out its duties. After all, the civil service is accountable to the people because it draws its primary income from the people. iii. Thus, essential information about the Ministries, their functions and government policies are made known to the public e.g. procedures and cost of obtaining a HDB flat. iv. At the same time, by being open and responsive to people’s needs, it would help the civil service be the eyes and ears for the government on public feelings/opinions towards government policies and performance. v. Thus, openness would help the civil service perform her role as a implementer of policy and a bridge between the government and the people. 5. What do we need to do sustain good governance in Singapore? a. Good governance comes about because of a few factors. One of the most important is the quality of its leadership. i. Recruitment/Values. In order to recruit good quality people, the government talent spots certain people who have talent, ability, good character and are honest. ii. Potential candidates need to measure up against the above qualities and must have a proven track record before they are even concerned. iii. Training and selection. Potential candidates will then be selected and trained to assume positions of responsibility. iv. These candidates can come from various avenues, private sector or public sector i.e. civil service. v. They will be rotated and tested in different capacities e.g. different ministries. vi. They are also tested to see if they can work in teams, since the leaders must be able to work with each other and not be caught up in power struggles. vii. Those who do well will be appointed to higher/senior positions. In this way, the best person for the job is selected for leadership roles. viii. Good rapport with the people. Good quality leadership with a proven track record will win people’s trust. ix. However, the leaders must also be able to interact with the people. Only then can they better explain government policies and win the trust and compliance (willingness to follow) of the people. x. Thus, to ensure good leadership, a process of selection, training and building rapport with the people is needed. Through this, we can maintain good leadership/good governance. b. The Civil Service too, must do its part to sustain good governance. Practices and qualities such as meritocracy, honesty and transparency must be continually upheld to make sure the civil service is efficient, effective and corrupt free. i. On top of this, the civil service needs to keep up with the times.


ii. Civil servants today are expected to innovate and think creatively to identify and solve problems, rather than just be robotic followers of rules and procedures. iii. One way this is done is by WITS teams (work improvement teams). Officers gather regularly to discuss ways to improve their work place/procedures. iv. Officers also go through constant training to enhance their service standards/professionalism. v. New technology has also been adopted and used to help the civil service become efficient/leaner (less workers) and more effective (better results/services). vi. Therefore, through the above means, the civil service will continue to be efficient and effective to serve as an implementer of policy and bridge between the people and the government. c. However, the people of Singapore must also do their part. Without the people’s support and actions, good governance cannot continue. There are many challenges to this area: i. Increasing numbers of Singaporeans venturing overseas for work means a danger of people losing their sense of belonging to Singapore. ii. Singaporeans too used to the good life in Singapore may become complacent and thinks everyone owes them a living; they lose the competitive age and ability to face up to challenges. iii. A multi-racial/religious/lingual society also means a constant danger of problems arising e.g. racial riots in 1964. iv. In order to deal with these problems, the government has begun to take steps to deal with this problem. v. One solution is to consult the people on government policies. This is done through gaining feedback through the Feedback Unit where alternative views and solutions are heard. Public forums are also held to garner people’s opinion of certain policies. vi. The recent public debate over the proposed integrated resorts shows how the government tries to listen to a more informed and educated people, this gives them a stake in the country and encourages active citizenry (responsible people who are civic minded). vii. The people are also the ones who are can keep an eye on incorrect practices in the country. For example, the recent public outcry over the National Kidney foundation and their unacceptable use of charity monies prompted the government to act. viii. However, the government will not shy away from unpopular policies – guiding principle of pragmatism. ix. Another solution is work with the people. This is also active citizenry where people step forward on their own to address certain problems rather than wait for the government to take the lead. x. For example, people volunteer through church groups or Voluntary Welfare organizations to help people in need e.g. Red Cross, Renci Hospital or to nurture the young into responsible adults. xi. The government also encourages partnerships with the people through organizations such as schools (Ministry of education) where parents are requested to come forward and join parentteacher associations so that both parties take the responsibility to nurture children in schools.


xii. Another method is encouraging people to serve in the CDC (Community Development Councils) where they can do a variety of things to help the less fortunate e.g. take care of the elderly, help find jobs (job-matching) etc. xiii. All of the above encourages citizens to be active and help in nation building and hence ensure good governance. xiv. The government also tries to share the fruits of labour with the people. xv. In order to build a socially cohesive society, the government tries to provide means to help groups who are left behind for whatever reason. This helps prevents resentment among e.g. the Malay population, who for instance have not done as well economically. xvi. The government tries various means to help e.g. financial assistance, rebated 3 room flats for sale to the needy and wealth redistribution such as rebates for public utilities and service and conservancy charges i.e. people living in smaller flats would get more help. xvii. Through all the above means, the government hopes to engage people and win their trust and cooperation. xviii. Only through this 3 party partnership between the government, civil service and the people will good governance continue.


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