Singapore needs to have "the strongest leadership team possible" for others to take it seriously and be willing to work with it, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.
Bringing in good people is a never-ending challenge, he acknowledged yesterday in his speech during the first day of debates on the President's Address.
At the opening of Parliament last week, President Halimah Yacob called on Singapore's fourth-generation of leaders to "fire up and mobilise" young Singaporeans.
Mr Chan, who was among the 4G team who drafted Madam Halimah's speech, stressed the need to find the strongest set of indi-viduals - not only to solve current problems, but also to prevent future problems from arising in the first place.
Singapore needs individuals with diverse skill sets and perspectives that can be combined as necessary to tackle challenges when circumstances change, he said.
Mr Chan raised the difficulty of bringing in good people who would sacrifice their personal and family interests for the country, especially so when it is already successful, peaceful and prosperous.
"But we must try," he said, adding that this cannot be left to chance.
DIVERSE TALENT NEEDED
We need to find the strongest set of individuals - not to solve current problems alone, but to prevent future problems from arising in the first place. This means we need diverse skill sets and perspectives, so that we can combine them as necessary and tackle challenges together, when circumstances change.
TRADE AND INDUSTRY MINISTER CHAN CHUN SING
The People's Action Party Government will spare no effort to find such people for its political leadership team, he said.
"Agreeing with us is not the prerequisite. Agreeing to put Singapore first and foremost is the prerequisite," he added.
He noted that Singapore's leadership model is one where overlapping generations of leadership teams help the next generation to do better.
"This provides continuity in our interaction with others and for us to compete at the highest global level with consistency in vision and purpose," he said.
"All these leadership traits - commitment, teamwork, courage to evolve, a sense of mission - are what we will need to keep our systems special."
Singapore has come far because of trust, teamwork and an ability and the courage to develop its own systems to meet its unique needs, Mr Chan said.
He highlighted the country's unique circumstances - it is a small city-state with a multiracial society, situated in a volatile region, without a conventional hinterland and with no one else to depend on for its defence.
"And while we study other systems and adapt them where suitable, we must not copy blindly or become 'intellectually colonised'," he said.
"We must remain prepared to develop systems that work best for us. More importantly, for us to also constantly update them to meet our evolving needs."
This has been Singapore's approach on issues such as housing, national service, the Central Provident Fund, as well as the GRC system and the elected presidency, he said.
Today, Singapore is also fostering stronger collaborations by tapping different networks of expertise, he said, citing efforts to renew the economy through Industry Transformation Maps - blueprints that map out how various economic sectors should upgrade themselves and their workers for the future.
These efforts involve not only government agencies, but also trade associations and chambers, enterprises, the labour movement and workers, he noted.
"Rather than a 'whole-of-government' strategy, this is a 'whole-of-nation' strategy, Mr Chan said.
He also outlined how Singapore can secure its place in the world - it has to value-add to stay relevant, build networks and be able to compete globally.
This will allow the country to transcend its constraints and turn them into opportunities instead, he said.
With good leaders, strategies and systems in place, Singapore's success is limited only by the scale of its ambitions and drive, he added.
After all, the pioneer generation built a successful Singapore with much less, he said.
"They have overcome their share of the challenges to leave us the Singapore we have today. There is absolutely no reason why our generation, which has so much more, cannot leave behind an even better Singapore for the next generation," said Mr Chan.