Singapore a bellwether of public policy: Ong Ye Kung

Singapore faces policy dilemmas earlier and more acutely than other countries, said Mr Ong Ye Kung.
Singapore faces policy dilemmas earlier and more acutely than other countries, said Mr Ong Ye Kung.

As a city-state connected to the world, Singapore faces policy dilemmas earlier and more acutely than other countries, said Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung yesterday.

"Global forces affect us like the quiver of a wire affecting a tightrope walker," he added.

Mr Ong, who was speaking at the gala dinner of the three-day International Conference on Public Policy, said this predicament makes Singapore a bellwether of public policy.

"We develop policies by examining what other countries and cities have done," he explained. "We are like a space research centre - a frontier of know-how, moving fast and decisively, but every rocket launch and space shuttle launch carries all our hopes and dreams for success."

The conference, which started on Wednesday, has more than 1,200 scholars and leaders of international organisations coming together to analyse public policy issues. It is organised by the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP) and the International Public Policy Association.

In his speech, Mr Ong highlighted the special role of the LKYSPP as a "cornucopia of all good ideas in public policy and governance". He said the graduate school can be a valuable partner for governments - to help policymakers and leaders better understand governance.

He cited four broad challenges countries have to grapple with, and shared how Singapore is dealing with these disruptions. They include economic and social dilemmas, as well as issues regarding external relations and governance.

Mr Ong pointed out that "politics is at risk of becoming more myopic and short term in orientation".

"Pressures are increasingly about relieving pain here and now," he said. "Politicians, instead of leading people, can end up being led by opinion polls."

He cited the Government's engagement with Singaporeans as a key approach in tackling this issue.

"We are probably the only country where policy implementation literally goes right to the doorstep of households, through the relentless hard work of an extensive network of grassroots volunteers," he said.

The only way to be able to act quickly and decisively in the long term is to earn the trust of Singaporeans, he added. "To maintain the bond and trust with the people, we must avoid complacency, elitism and corruption, keep our intentions pure, and always have the people's interests at heart."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore a bellwether of public policy: Ong Ye Kung'. Print Edition | Subscribe