Singapore a bellwether of public policy: Ong Ye Kung

Mr Ong Ye Kung speaks at the Gala Dinner on the second day of the 3rd International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) on 29 June, 2017.
Mr Ong Ye Kung speaks at the Gala Dinner on the second day of the 3rd International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) on 29 June, 2017.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore, as a city-state connected to the world, faces policy dilemmas earlier and more acutely than other countries, said Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung on Thursday (June 29).

"Global forces affect us like the quiver of a wire affecting a tightrope walker," he added.

Mr Ong, who was speaking at the gala dinner of a three-day international conference on public policy, said this predicament makes Singapore a bellwether of public policy.

"We develop policies by examining what other countries and cities have done," he explained. "We are like a space research centre - a frontier of know-how, moving fast and decisively, but every rocket and space shuttle carries all our hopes and dreams for success."

The ongoing International Conference on Public Policy, which started on Wednesday (June 28), gathers more than 1,200 scholars and leaders of international organisations to analyse critical issues in public policy. It is organised by the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the International Public Policy Association.

Mr Ong highlighted the special role played by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy for being a "cornucopia of all good ideas in public policy and governance".

He noted that the graduate school must be "a magnet for great minds and big ideas" and can be a valuable partner for governments - to help policymakers and leaders better understand governance.

In his speech at the dinner held at the Gardens by the Bay, Mr Ong cited four broad challenges countries have to grapple with today, and shared how Singapore is dealing with these disruptions. These include economic and social dilemmas, as well as issues regarding external relations and governance.

Mr Ong pointed that "politics is at risk of becoming more myopic and short-term in orientation".

"Pressures are increasingly about relieving pain here and now," he said. "Politicians, instead of leading people, can end up being led by opinion polls."

Mr Ong cited the government's engagement with Singaporeans as a key approach in tackling this issue.

"We are probably the only country, where policy implementation literally goes right to the doorstep of households, through the relentless hard work of an extensive network of grassroots volunteers," he said.

Mr Ong added that the only way to be able to act quickly and decisively in the long-term is to earn the trust of Singaporeans. "To maintain the bond and trust with the people, we must avoid complacency, elitism and corruption, keep our intentions pure, and always have the people's interests at heart."