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Singapore Government Essay

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Describe the main principles of good governance as articulated by Singapore leaders. Singapore continues to rank high globally on indexes that measure good governance, especially in terms of investment and corruption (Economic Development Board, 2013). Within the region, according to Vriens & Partners’ Asia Pacific Investment Climate Index 2013, Singapore was ranked second among Asian Pacific countries, after New Zealand, for rule of law, political stability, corruption and taxation. She was ranked first in openness to international trade and businesses. Indeed, behind the rankings are principles of good governance, which her leaders use to guide policy-making, which has resulted in Singapore’s economic success despite her unique circumstances. Hence, the role of leadership in carrying out good governance is therefore, pivotal and fundamental, which will be explored further in this essay. Nonetheless, the importance of good governance is crucial in Singapore, where good governance is needed for the survival of a small country with no natural resources and a multi-racial society. Moreover, good governance is made even more complicated as Singapore is a Chinese-majority country surrounded by its larger Malay-majority neighbours, and increasing globalisation with Singapore’s open economy, has made it important to stay ahead of competition. In this essay, I will explore the main principles of good governance by Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, and current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Fundamentally these principles are all good but reality is much more complicated, when these principles that guide policy-making result in policies that produce certain trade-offs in society. Even though leaders implement policies that can produce negative trade-offs, ultimately, the ability of leaders to keep revising policies, to intervene in ensuring an inclusive society and to recognise the mistakes made and correct them is also part of good governance. One of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 4 principles of good governance is “Leadership is Key.” As mentioned earlier, due to Singapore’s unique circumstances, especially since she is a small country among other bigger countries, having good leadership is crucial. This means the presence of able, quality leaders at all levels, including the institutions, not just to create visions to unite citizens and sound policies but also to ensure their implementation, and hence the overall effective functioning of the system. This is why there has been an emphasis on attracting and retaining talented people in the civil service. There have been revisions made to the salaries, where each occupation is pegged to its direct equivalent in the private sector, if there is any equivalent. In addition, ministers and senior civil servants are offered high remunerations (Haen, 2007). Potential leaders are selected and groomed and put to test before they take up key government positions. Many cabinet ministers today have gone through years of grooming. This is also in-line with one of Former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s principles where “a culture of identifying and grooming talent for public service is needed to attract the best brains to join and work in the government.” For example, current Labour chief Lim Swee Say was awarded the SAF Scholarship in 1973. He served in SAF, National Computer Board and Economic Development Board before he became a member of Parliament in 1994. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong received the SAF Scholarship in 1971 to study Mathematics in Cambridge University and served in the army for 13 years, where he attained the rank of brigadier general in 1983. He served as minister for defence, and trade and industry, before becoming Prime Minister. Hence, ministers are carefully selected not just based on their stellar academic records but also their honest and good character. In addition, a leader must also do what is right and not what is popular. One of Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s (1979) principles is “Win respect, not popularity.” Leader should not aim to be popular in policies but to win respect, which could mean making decisions that are unpopular to get the results. For example, even though Singaporeans expressed reservations about the taste of NEWater, because they were uncomfortable with drinking water taken from waste, the government took steps to slowly introduce NEWater to Singaporeans. For example, the government promoted NEWater by mixing NEWater with reservoir water, giving out NEWater bottles to households, even ministers drank NEWater to prove that it is safe for drinking. This showed the import...

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