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Public service must include more diverse voices

In order for the public service to be more effective, it needs to recruit people with more diverse skills, according to Mr Wong Horng Ginn (Diversified thinking important for Singapore's future; July 15).

When leaders are drawn from a group possessing similar doctrines and ideology, they tend to approach issues by consensus, rather than as independent individuals.

Compliance, joint rationalisation, a lack of personal accountability and the pressure to accede may follow, often resulting in unchallenged as well as poor decisions.

In contrast, wise leaders understand that dissension is crucial to steer clear of groupthink, and address the concerns of those who are bold enough to disagree.

Thus, unless the Public Service Commission shifts towards a more broad-based recruitment process, the man in the street will be frustrated by policies that do not mirror the realities on the ground.

Senior civil servants have to see things in context, anticipate developments and be innovative in meeting such challenges without having to rely on precedents that may have served us well in the past, but are no longer relevant.

Policymakers must have a true feel of the ground and not take their fellow citizens for granted.

Policymakers must have a true feel of the ground and not take their fellow citizens for granted.

The problem may be rooted in the lack of diversified thinking among policymakers, as well as a natural aversion to uncertainty.

Without policymakers drawn from the private sector, we may not see consistent rejuvenation and fresh ideas in local politics.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 29, 2018, with the headline 'Public service must include more diverse voices'. Print Edition | Subscribe