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Each generation of leaders must earn S’poreans’ trust: Chan Chun Sing
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing delivering his speech at the inaugural S R Nathan Hard Seats lecture. Hosted by the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Singapore, the inaugural lecture kicked off an annual series in memory of Singapore’s sixth President, the late Mr S R Nathan. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY
January 12th, 2018 | 11:07 AM | 1599 views
Ensuring a pipeline of committed leaders who can build deep trust among Singaporeans is one of the “immutable challenges” for Singapore, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Chan Chun Sing at the inaugural S R Nathan Hard Seats lecture on Thursday (Jan 11).
Noting that people and government must work together to keep the Republic successful, Mr Chan said that to win Singaporeans’ trust, leaders must be upfront about challenges and options. They must also find new ways to get their points across to different generations, and remain accountable and responsible.
“Each generation of leaders must... help Singaporeans understand what’s at stake and the trade-offs involved... (They must) work the ground and share as much information wherever possible,” said Mr Chan, who is among Singapore’s core fourth generation leadership. Trust is a “precious asset that needs to be earned and maintained” by every cohort of leaders, he reiterated.
Mr Chan, 48, is among the frontrunners — along with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, 56, and Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung, 48 — seen as potential successors to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
With a major Cabinet reshuffle expected to take place early this year, the political succession has come under the spotlight in recent weeks.
On Dec 31 last year, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong put up a Facebook post describing the leadership renewal at the highest level as an “urgent challenge”. Subsequently, 16 fourth generation political officeholders, including Mr Chan, issued a joint statement saying they were “keenly aware that leadership succession is a pressing issue”, and they “will settle on a leader from amongst us in good time”.
Mr Goh then told reporters that the Facebook post was done “on purpose to elicit a response” from the fourth generation leaders, and he had achieved his purpose.
On Thursday, Mr Chan devoted a good part of his lecture on the country’s leadership. Hosted by the Oxford and Cambridge Society of Singapore, the inaugural lecture — attended by about 90 alumni and invited guests — kicked off an annual series in memory of Singapore’s sixth President, the late Mr S R Nathan.
In his speech, Mr Chan described Mr Nathan, who died in August 2016, as a “dear mentor to me”. “Pioneers like Mr Nathan may not be with us now, but the hard work they’ve put in to build our nation will always be remembered,” Mr Chan said.
He reiterated that for an “improbable country” like Singapore, “survival is not a given or a natural right”. He said: “It is a work in constant progress and requires concerted efforts by all – people and government working together to overcome our immutable challenges.”
Apart from having “exceptional leadership teams that can win the trust of the people”, Mr Chan highlighted three other challenges Singapore faces: Navigating geopolitical challenges in a volatile region, fighting for economic survival without a conventional hinterland, and forging a sense of nationhood among a diverse population.
To survive, Singapore must have a keen sense of how wider geopolitical forces can impact it, which involves seeing beyond immediate opportunities and threats, he said. It must also strive to grow beyond the constraints of its geographical size and position by staying open and connecting with the world as its “de-facto hinterland”. “Every country in the world is facing similar challenges. If anyone can get their act together, Singapore should be at the forefront,” he said.
Mr Chan stressed that a “basic question” which Singapore’s current leaders must always ask themselves repeatedly is whether the lives of fellow Singaporeans have improved.
“Is it better today, compared to yesterday? Will it be better tomorrow, compared to today,” he said.
Mr Chan also reiterated the need for the Government to guard against a widening gap between the winners and those who are lagging behind in society.
Stressing that social mobility is key to Singapore’s social compact, he said that the country needs to maintain a “broad middle ground” that fosters cohesion. This will increasingly require “targeted policies” to ensure the systems are kept equitable and fair. “So long as one is capable and committed, one’s opportunities and accomplishments in life should not be defined only his connections or ancestry,” he said.
At the same time, the Republic must stay conscious of fault lines that may emerge, such as tensions between “old” and “new” citizens.
Different groups championing their respective social causes without a broader, shared perspective can also create rifts, he said.
Concluding his 30-minute lecture, Mr Chan said paid tribute to the Republic’s pioneers for their “hard-won legacy”.
“This generation (of leaders) must similarly understand that we, too, have our share of ‘life and death’ struggles to keep this country going. They have to be cognisant of not just the immutable challenges, but also those that come with each generation,” he said.
courtesy of TODAY
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