Civil service must meet challenge of doing more with less

I am glad that Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat emphasised the importance of prudence in spending, going forward (Budget caps for ministries lowered to set prudent tone; Feb 21).

The 2 per cent downward adjustment to budget caps for ministries and organs of state is definitely a move in the right direction.

There are many areas where spending can be cut, such as furniture and equipment.

When I first enlisted in the army more than 30 years ago, our personal issues such as helmets and backpacks were all recycled from previous trainees.

Now, everyone seems to get new uniforms and equipment. Do we recycle equipment and uniforms from operationally ready national servicemen?

We should challenge our civil service to do more with less. Whenever there is a problem or complaint, there is a tendency to start a new department to address it, thus resulting in ever-increasing manpower needs.

We are a small country but we seem to have more ministries and statutory boards than many larger countries, and probably, a larger civil service as well.

When things fall through the cracks, the solution shouldbe to merge departments so that there will no longer be cracks, not create a new department to cover the cracks.

Civil servants need to think like they are running their own businesses.

Yeo Chee Kean

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2017, with the headline 'Civil service must meet challenge of doing more with less'. Print Edition | Subscribe