Don't put experienced civil servants to pasture so soon

I was dismayed to read that Civil Service head Peter Ong will be retiring at the age of 56 (Ex-policeman set to head Civil Service; July 19).

His predecessor, Mr Peter Ho, also retired at that age in 2010.

In a country with an ageing population and limited talent pool why are we so eager to put to pasture experienced civil servants who are still in their prime?

I am concerned when it comes to the changing of political or civil service leadership. The value of experience cannot be overstated, as the private sector would affirm.

If all the 60- or 70-year-old businessmen stayed at home counting their pennies, Singapore would not have a vibrant private sector today.

The explanation I am often given for this haste in changing political and civil service leadership is that the conveyor belt is filled with many bright young people already moving up and ready to take over.

To me, this is not a credible explanation. Let them wait and earn their spurs. That experience will give them the wisdom to tackle many of our difficult problems.

Patience is a virtue that needs to be cultivated. If young people cannot wait, then let them go into the private sector. If they can reach the top at such early age, both they and the country would have gained from it.

My plea is to give our young people time to gain experience. Meanwhile, let us continue to get the best from our experienced civil servants.

Gopinath Pillai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2017, with the headline 'Don't put experienced civil servants to pasture so soon'. Print Edition | Subscribe