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Public service needs to have 'fear factor'

The bicycle-sharing example Mr Han Fook Kwang used in his comment piece (Is Singapore becoming an old young country?; May 14) was apt to depict how we are getting slower to respond to new ideas.

He mentioned that the bike-sharing idea was mooted in 2014 but it was only two or three years later that it became a reality.

I think it is time to rekindle Singapore founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's idea of public service here when he equated it to entrepreneurship in Singapore's earlier years.

As a relatively new entrepreneur, I realise the rules of the game keep on evolving and need to change with time, after the initial foundation.

Our public service could improve with more entrepreneurial spirit with some suggestions, including :

•Instilling the "fear factor": As an entrepreneur, you are constantly in fear - of being overtaken by your competition, of not being able to pay your employees well or sustain the business for the livelihood of your employees and business partners. We need to have all these worries and this "fear" inculcated in the mindset of our public service, so that issues are analysed quicker and ideas are adopted faster, albeit after careful consideration or pilot runs. With this mindset, the actions that follow would be more purposeful.

•Facilitating local entrepreneurship: We could do with more entrepreneurial spirit here than currently observable, and our Singapore Government needs to participate more in this small domestic market of consumers and start-ups. Firstly, this could be through more grants from Spring Singapore to local start-ups and with less stringent criteria than now. Secondly, being small in size, we need greater government involvement in this new digital economy. Innovation and thus better goods and services are likely products from government-assisted start-ups.

Mr Lee once said, "Rest on laurels? I wish I could do that. No, you rest when you're dead."

I certainly think our public service is not resting on its laurels, but it may do us good to rethink how to be a "young" country again, as Mr Han has suggested.

Lock Chee Wee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 21, 2017, with the headline 'Public service needs to have 'fear factor''. Subscribe