Building trust is a two-way street

I read with much interest the excerpt from Mr Peter Ho's speech(Is balance of trust shifting from the political to social?; Feb 13).

I broadly agree with him, except on two points.

First, the description of the #MeToo phenomenon appears to suggest that distributed trust and the lack of public trust "cost ministers and politicians their jobs".

While I agree that the said ministers and politicians may have been first judged in the court of public opinion, to not address even the possibility that they may have acted in ways that deserve the loss of their jobs is, to me, a gross omission.

Second, nothing is mentioned about whether elites indeed do still deserve the public's trust.

The argument is made as if the actions of elites is a constant, while the trust is in decline because of other factors.

From the unscientific perspective of a regular citizen, it seems as if there are employment consequences for the elites only in situations of marital impropriety.

While that is truly distressing for the spouse in question, it largely does not affect the rest of the population, compared with wrongdoings, incompetence or excess greed.

Mr Ho's example of then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's actions during the Sars crisis gives us the direction.

Trust is a two-way street. Transparency, informing the public, taking action and being seen to take action are all necessary for winning and building trust.

I understand that the conference was about the behavioural science of public trust, but facts and actions also affect the behaviour of the public.

Sng Woei Shyong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline 'Building trust is a two-way street'. Subscribe