Opening Address by Mr Teo Chee Hean at the 4th Singapore‑China Forum on Leadership
FOURTH SINGAPORE-CHINA FORUM ON LEADERSHIP
26 NOVEMBER 2013, 10AM
Your Excellency Minister Zhào Lèjì (???)
Distinguished Guests and Colleagues
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. Good morning. First, let me warmly welcome Minister Zhao and our Chinese friends to Singapore for the Fourth Singapore-China Forum on Leadership. I would also like to congratulate Minister Zhao on your appointment as a Member of the Politburo and Minister of the Organisation Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee.
2. Since 2009, we have held three successful Forums. We had good discussions on Leadership Selection and Development (?????????), Harmonious Society and the Development of Leadership (??????????), and last year in Beijing on Leadership Development in the Age of the New Media (???????????).
3. This is the first time that Minister Zhao and I are co-chairing this Forum, with the theme “Fostering Integrity in Government” (????? “?” ???). I look forward to working closely with Minister Zhao to continue to deepen the cooperation between Singapore and China in this important area of leadership development, and further strengthen the unique relationship with the Central Organisation Department in China.
Sino-Singapore Bilateral Relationship
4. Singapore and China share a long-standing and deep relationship. There are frequent interactions between our leaders, officials and businessmen and people-to-people exchanges between students and visitors.
5. At the government level, we share a close working relationship across a wide range of areas, with both the central and regional levels in China. Last month, I co-chaired the 10th Singapore-China Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation with Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and we reached agreements on how China and Singapore could strengthen cooperation in economic transformation, financial services, inclusive and sustainable development, as well as promoting cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
Sharing Experiences, Learning from Each Other
6. There are many areas where officials from Singapore and China learn from each other. More than 7,600 Chinese officials have participated in various programmes in Singapore in the last 18 months alone, bringing the total to more than 45,600 since 1996. Under the Framework Agreement on exchange programmes, we work with the Central Organisation Department to arrange customised programmes relevant to China’s development priorities. There are six such study visits to Singapore by middle and senior-level Chinese officials from the central government and the provinces each year. We have also run customised programmes with the China Executive Leadership Academy, Pudong. The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the National University of Singapore Business School has a Chinese-language Masters in Public Administration and Management; and the Nanyang Technological University has a programme for senior Chinese officials that is commonly referred to as the Mayor’s Programme (???).
7. In recent years, many more Singapore officials are also visiting China to better understand China’s development, and learn from China’s experience. Many Singapore Government scholarship holders now choose to undertake degrees at Beida or Tsinghua Universities. A growing number of senior officials have also been awarded fellowships to conduct research projects concerning China or Singapore-China relations. We look forward to continuing and expanding these exchanges. They strengthen mutual understanding and personal ties between the future leaders of both our countries, and allow them to share ideas on how to tackle common challenges and seize emerging opportunities together.
Taking a Long-term Approach, Serving the People
8. Our two governments seek to do good for our peoples, take care of their needs, and create opportunities for them to make best use of their potential. Besides addressing immediate concerns, we also take a long-term view to policy-making that considers long-term benefits and trade-offs.
9. To serve the people well, a government must seek to understand citizens’ needs and aspirations, and work with them to develop solutions that benefit the largest number of people. This requires leaders and public officers who have a good sense of ground sentiments, are committed to serving the people and the country, who can develop sound policies and implement them, and who have the right attitude and the right values.
10. The environment in which governments operate is changing. Our populations are becoming more diverse and better educated, with more varied needs and aspirations. Globalisation and technological advances have also led to changes in people’s attitudes, values and preferences. Many countries, including Singapore and China, face rapid changes in society, brought about by among other things an ageing population, urbanisation, and the Internet, while striving to provide opportunities for all, and ensuring that growth benefits everyone.
Building Trust, Strengthening the Government’s Relationship with the People
11. In this more complex operating environment, it is even more important for the government to build consensus and unity, so that the country can move together to realise a common vision.
12. Effective two-way communication and consensus building will help tap the ideas of our citizens, deepen mutual understanding and strengthen the trust between the government and citizens. Greater involvement will also help build a stronger sense of community, commitment and ownership. This is why the Singapore Government embarked on a year-long Our Singapore Conversation to conduct more than 600 dialogues with over 47,000 Singaporeans from all walks of life to hear their aspirations and expectations about the future of Singapore.
Fostering Integrity in Government
13. The theme of this year’s Forum – “Fostering Integrity in Government” – is very relevant.
14. The concept of integrity goes beyond the integrity of individual officers, to the integrity of our institutions and processes, and also requires fostering integrity among citizens, and integrity as a social norm. In the broad sense, integrity is the cornerstone for building trust between the Government and citizens.
15. Let me touch on each of these areas briefly.
16. We have always sought to attract, develop and retain capable people, based on merit, in political service and the Public Service. The Public Service pays competitive salaries, to ensure that public officers are adequately compensated, and we get our fair share of capable people to join the Public Service. But it is not just academic capabilities or paper qualifications that we are looking for. We also want public officers with the right values, with a heart to serve the people; officers who get satisfaction from serving their fellow citizens and seeing the lives of their fellow citizens become better.
17. To maintain the integrity of the government, we have strict financial controls and procedures, with checks and balances, which are regularly reviewed to address weaknesses or adapt to new circumstances. There are also several ways for public officers to report suspected wrongdoing. We take such reports very seriously, and will launch an investigation once there is sufficient basis and information provided. And we will take firm action in all cases of wrong-doing, decisively and transparently.
18. Strong processes and enforcement are underpinned by sound values and a strong organisational culture. The Public Service is governed by a Code of Conduct, based on the principles of meritocracy and incorruptibility. We expect officers and leaders of the Public Service to uphold the core values of integrity, service and excellence, and to imbue these values in their officers. Young officers are also inculcated with the right values from the very beginning so that throughout their careers, they will instinctively know what is expected of them and not be afraid to report to the relevant authorities when they come across inappropriate behaviour.
19. Beyond the government, society also has a part to play. Singaporeans expect public officers to be fair and impartial, and not to show favours to anyone for personal gain, or because of kinship or friendship. Singaporeans would consider it wrong to try to obtain special favours from government officials or agencies. Indeed, Singaporeans and public officers would be outraged if they were asked for a bribe, or were offered one.
20. Together, these various components have helped Singapore to foster integrity in government. The key principles were laid down by our founding fathers. On the whole, we have done well, but where there have been lapses, the individuals who have done wrong have been dealt with firmly but fairly, either in the courts, or through disciplinary actions. Where processes have been inadequate, we have tightened them. We know that this is an endless task that requires continuing effort and commitment of every public officer, with the leadership setting the example.
21. Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Social and Family Development, will speak more about what we have done in recent years, to foster integrity in government and strengthen the trust between the Government and citizens.
22. Even though Singapore and China are very different in size and we also have difference in our administrative system, we share similar objectives and face common challenges and I believe the principles are essentially the same. Our discussions today will allow us to exchange ideas and share principles, processes and practices that we can learn from one another. We can also build friendships that will strengthen further the warm and fruitful relations between our two countries and people.
23. I look forward to hearing from Minister Zhao and also members of your delegation during our discussions today. Once again, I bid our friends from China a very warm welcome and all the very best.
24. Thank you.