Governments need to be learning organisations, change managers: Masagos

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said that governments needed to be both "learning organisations" and "change managers".
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli said that governments needed to be both "learning organisations" and "change managers".PHOTO: MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

BEIJING - The Singapore Government's role in the early days of independence was one of leading from the front but the need to tackle new challenges has seen it take on a more collaborative style, a senior official said on Saturday (Dec 2).

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, told a high-level dialogue in Beijing that governments needed to be both "learning organisations" and "change managers", "making sense of things that are constantly changing, adapting quickly and dealing effectively with the challenges".

In Singapore's case, in the early years of nationhood, the Government's priorities were industrial and public infrastructure development, and it "led from the front and told people what to do".

In the 1990s, it took on a more consultative style that focused on creating conditions for citizens to thrive in, said Mr Masagos, who was speaking at a dialogue with political parties organised by the Chinese Communist Party.

This has in turn evolved into the prevailing collaborative style of government that "is about both the Government and citizens working together to co-create solutions", he added.

That has led to the "Our Singapore Conversation" initiative, where the Government has asked 50,000 citizens to share their concerns and aspirations.

SGfuture, meanwhile, allows the Government and citizens  to co-create their collective future, while the SGSecure movement galvanises the community to be vigilant against the threat of global terrorism, added Mr Masagos, a member of the Central Executive Committee of the People's Action Party (PAP). He is representing both the Singapore Government and the PAP at the Beijing gathering.

The Government's policies have also evolved to meet new challenges, he said, citing the SkillsFuture initiative to help Singaporeans adapt to job challenges and opportunities of the digital economy as well as compete at a global level.

At the international level, as a small country, Singapore "has continued to create relevance for itself" to continue to be useful to its major partners, noted Mr Masagos. This included partnering China in bilateral projects such as the Suzhou Industrial Park and the Chongqing Connectivity Initiative.

The PAP is one of more than 200 parties and political organisations from around 120 countries taking part in the dialogue that began on Thursday and ends on Sunday.

Regional leaders attending include Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor and Foreign Affairs Minister of Myanmar and leader of the ruling National League for Democracy; and Mr Hun Sen,  Cambodian Prime Minister and head of the Cambodian People's Party. Ms Choo Mi Ae, head of the South Korean ruling party Minjoo, is also present, as are representatives of Malaysia's ruling Umno and MCA.

Chinese President Xi Jinping used part of his keynote speech on Friday to reiterate his concept of building "a community of shared future for mankind" that he first spoke about in 2013.

He also proposed developing a new model of party-to-party relations in which political parties seek common ground while shelving differences, and respect and learn from one another.

Mr Masagos made a bilateral call on the Chairman of the National People’s Congress Environment Protection and Resources Conservation Committee Lu Hao on Friday (Dec 1) and is meeting Singaporeans who are working in Beijing on Saturday (Dec 2).