Thank you Madam
First, let me thank
Members for their views and their strong support for the work of our public
Over the past week, Members
debated how to position Singapore for the future, and move ahead as one people.
As challenges become more cross-cutting, the Government needs to be even more
closely coordinated in policy formulation and policy execution, and to harness
and manage our national resources more effectively. This will help ensure
that the Public Sector is ready to help implement the recommendations
of the Committee on the Future Economy and take Singapore forward.
I want to assure
Members that our public officers do work tirelessly to serve Singapore and
Singaporeans. There are many examples of exemplary public officers who go the
extra mile to help those with particular needs or are in distress. From HDB,
LTA, WSG, the SSOs – the whole group that Mr Seah referred to. Indeed, we recognise such officers each year to encourage everyone in
the Public Service to follow their example. However, no system is perfect and
we are constantly striving to do better. Each one of us who serve the public –
public officers, Members of this House, and members of the public too – have a
role to play. Each year, we also recognise members of the public who have
contributed to making our public services more responsive and empathetic. Madam
Chairperson, while our public officers at all levels work quietly and tirelessly
and do not seek praise, a little encouragement does help. I take the points
raised by Members of this House in a positive spirit for improvement. But I
hope that Members will rise, from time to time – like Mr Seah today, and Mr
Ganesh, and Ms Kuik, in this House to also offer encouragement for the good
work of the many public officers who have worked hard and gone the extra mile
to serve their constituents and Singaporeans.
It is in this spirit
that today, I outline four priorities for the Public Service:
Integrating Strategic Planning and Execution;
Building New Capabilities;
Developing Our Public Officers.
Integrating Strategic Planning and Execution
First, integrating strategic planning and
Mr Cedric Foo, Assoc Prof Fatimah Lateef and Mr
Seah Kian Peng asked about coordination among government agencies and resource
management in the Public Service.
Two years ago, I announced the formation of the
PMO-Strategy Group. Last year, PMO-SG continued its work to strengthen
whole-of-government planning and execution, supporting the Prime Minister and
the three coordinating ministers to tackle long term, cross-cutting issues.
As part of the consolidation and strengthening
of the core centre-of-government functions, we merged the National Population
and Talent Division and the National Climate Change Secretariat into the
As Mr Seah pointed out, there are cross-cutting
issues which have longer term impact. Population is certainly one of them. It frames
the work of many ministries – covering areas such as the economy, healthcare,
workforce, infrastructure and defence planning, as Mr Seah pointed out. Most
importantly, we will also continue to strengthen the Singapore Family, with Marriage
& Parenthood measures to support couples to own homes and have children. SMS Josephine Teo will update members on
these plans later.
is another cross-cutting issue with long-term implications that will be even
more keenly felt by future generations. Coordinated actions by all countries are
needed to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Singapore played a constructive and
facilitative role in the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change which came into force on 4 November 2016. Singapore is a Party to the Agreement and has pledged
to reduce emissions intensity by 36% from 2005 levels by
2030 and stabilise our emissions with the aim of peaking around 2030.
Heng Leun asked how we intend to achieve this. We have identified four strategies
in our Climate Action Plan published last year. We will improve our energy
efficiency, reduce our emissions from power generation, develop and deploy
low-carbon technologies, and encourage collective action among all
stakeholders. This plan is an example of how different government agencies work
together, coordinated by the National Climate Change Secretariat, which is now
in PMO-SG. We evaluated every option carefully, what its cost was to the
economy and to Singaporeans, and what effect it would have on mitigating carbon
emissions. Then, we prioritised those which were more efficient and made the
most sense for us.
The Minister for Finance has announced in the
Budget Speech that Government aims to implement a carbon tax from 2019. This is
one of the measures which is efficient and will encourage carbon mitigation. A carbon
tax will incentivise businesses and consumers to reduce emissions. And this will
complement the regulatory measures we have introduced and provide price
certainty to industrial facilities for investments in clean energy and energy
The carbon tax revenue will not be earmarked
for specific purposes to retain flexibility. In fact, the way Mr Kok described the
carbon tax in British Columbia made it seemed like a “panacea” to address all
our fiscal needs. If that were indeed
the case, the Minister for Finance will be delighted. But we are not earmarking the taxed amounts
for specific purposes, but government funds will support measures such as
enhancing energy efficiency incentives and training workers in energy
management. These will help our companies use less energy, save costs and
reduce their emissions.
Industry consultations on the carbon tax have
already begun and will be expanded. We will begin public consultations this
month. The Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) will further
enhance the Energy Conservation Act this year to include energy measurement
& reporting, and energy management requirements. MEWR and the Ministry of
Transport will also make adjustments to enhance the Carbon Emissions-based
Vehicle Scheme and include other pollutants.
Our companies, particularly those with an
established track record in clean energy and energy efficiency, are in a good
position to seize green growth opportunities in the region and beyond as countries,
including Singapore, take steps to reduce carbon emissions.
Second, driving innovation. Mr Lee Yi Shyan highlighted
that the Public Service needs to be innovative to position Singapore for the
future. Our leaders in the Public Service set the tone for public officers to
work together and pursue innovative solutions.
The Public Service has embarked on a transformational
journey over the past few years to become more innovative, work smarter through
technology, deliver seamless services, connect with citizens, and build a
future-ready workplace. But this is always a work in progress. We can always do
better. We can always be more efficient. We can always be more responsive.
To further these efforts, Prime Minister Lee has
appointed Minister Ong Ye Kung to champion Public Service innovation. Minister
Ong will focus on a number of key cross-cutting areas that require close
coordination among agencies.
For a start, this will cover two key areas. First,
the review of regulations to better support innovation and entrepreneurship.
Second, adopting procurement methods that support industry development, and helping
our companies and people seize new economic opportunities. These initiatives
are in line with the recommendations of the Committee on the Future Economy. Minister
Ong will also work with the Public Service on further areas to drive change and
The CFE also highlighted the need to harness
technology as a source of comparative advantage for our economy and to protect our
national security. Digitisation is creating new industries and transforming
existing ones such as finance, healthcare and corporate services. Within the
Public Service, we will continue to use technology to drive innovation,
increase productivity, and transform and improve the way that we deliver
services to the public.
Currently, the responsibility for driving
technology adoption in the Public Service is rather dispersed. We are studying
how we can better integrate our strategy and processes. This push for a more
integrated and technology-enabled government is crucial in our efforts to build
a Smart Nation.
I assure Mr Lee that the Public Service will do
its part to help Singapore stay competitive, and respond quickly to the
fast-changing global developments.
Building New Capabilities
Third, building new
capabilities in the Public Service.
Dr Intan and Mr Seah Kian Peng asked about the Government’s
plans to build new strategic capabilities in the Public Service.
Two key capabilities that the Public Service needs
to strengthen are digital capabilities and engineering.
I spoke about the importance of Digital
to build up our IT professional workforce to support priority areas.
We will grow a core group of 250 professionals
in GovTech and Cyber Security Agency to drive key digital capabilities in areas
such as data science and cybersecurity in the Public Service. For example, many
of you would be familiar with apps such as OneService and MyResponder,
developed by GovTech in partnership
with agencies to improve the lives of Singaporeans. OneService allows
Government agencies to respond quickly to citizens’ feedback. Through MyResponder, close to 800 volunteers were able to provide timely CPR
last year and I understand that this has led directly to saving several lives.
Besides using available technologies, these
professionals will work closely with our universities and industry to
experiment with and create new products and services, and enable further policy
innovation. It is important that Government agencies trial new technologies and
be early adopters.
We also need a broader appreciation and
application of these new technologies in the Public Service. We will therefore
be training 10,000 public officers over the next four years in digital
capabilities such as using more data analytics and data science in policy
formulation, service delivery and corporate services, and strengthening
cybersecurity. Minister Yaacob Ibrahim will touch more on our efforts to
support cybersecurity professionals in the COS under MCI.
Mr Liang Eng Hwa also asked about building engineering
capabilities in the public sector. This is another strategic capability.
Last year, I announced the establishment of three
Centres of Excellence (or CentExs), JTC, GovTech and DSTA.
These CentExs have done well. They have
partnered many agencies and research institutions to develop innovative technologies
JTC, as CentEx
for infrastructure and facilities management, developed their own integrated
smart estate and building operations system, called J-Ops. J-Ops uses existing
sensors to monitor and analyse essential services and systems not only in one
building, but in several buildings from a central location. This raises
productivity as our facility managers can optimise ops room personnel and
technicians over several buildings and facilities. In addition, this system
also allows them to use data analytics and predictive maintenance to pre-empt
issues and reduce energy consumption. This system has the potential to transform
how we manage our buildings and facilities.
Some issues are further from the public eye, but
no less important. This year, we will build up capabilities in two new CentExs
– JTC for underground caverns and LTA for tunnelling. These are important areas
to optimise our land resources.
These CentExs will develop and share deep
technical expertise within the Public Service and optimise deployment and
development of these specialities across the Public Service.
To strengthen the engineering leadership
pipeline, we have also introduced the PSC (Engineering) Scholarship since last
year to attract bright and passionate young people to pursue exciting and
meaningful careers in engineering in the Public Service.
The Government’s focus to build engineering
capabilities has led to strong interest in Public Service engineering careers. The
Public Service recruited over 1,000 engineers last year, bringing the total
close to 9,000.
We also look forward to partnering the private
sector and companies in building these digital and engineering capabilities in
the public sector to further support Singapore’s transformation and the
delivery of public services for Singaporeans.
Developing Our Public Officers
Finally, developing our public officers. As Mr Seah Kian Peng has pointed out, the
Public Service sets the tone for progressive people practices. We invest
heavily in the training of our officers so that they have the skills to do
their jobs well. Not just today’s jobs, but tomorrow’s jobs. For example, as I
mentioned, the Civil Service College will partner agencies and external providers
such as Coursera to train 10,000 officers in digital capabilities. This skills-based
approach refreshes our officers’ skills, and will facilitate officers’
deployment within and across agencies to optimise job needs and job matches.
We have merged a number of career tracks for
graduates and non-graduates since 2015 to provide greater opportunities for
career progression and development. Once an
officer is on the job, it is performance and readiness for bigger job
responsibilities that matter.
All officers who
perform well and show potential for leadership are given the opportunity to
participate in development programmes and be considered for higher positions.
The Public Service will continue to be
pro-active in implementing family friendly practices. The Public Service will
begin a pilot to enable officers who are starting or growing their families to spend
more time with their infants. SMS Josephine Teo will be providing more details
The Government recognises the contributions and
experience of our older workers. The public and private sectors, our unions and
workers have worked closely together to provide guidelines for re-employment.
To support those who want to continue to work, the Public Service took the lead
to introduce re-employment in accordance with these guidelines in July 2011.
We review these guidelines regularly. Following
our latest review, and in consultation with the public sector unions, from 1
July 2017, we will remove wage reductions on re-employment for public sector officers
re-employed to the same job grade. These officers will continue to receive
their last drawn salary. This is similar to the practice of most private sector
Public officers and pensioners on older medical
schemes currently enjoy medical benefits when they are hospitalised in our re-structured
hospitals. As a continuation of this stay, we will also cover up to 28 days of
in-hospital stay at community hospitals from 1 July 2017, providing better
access for these officers to the services offered by community hospitals. This
also supports the Ministry of Health’s policy to right-site medical care in the
most appropriate setting depending on the medical needs of the patient.
To better support HR policies for our public
officers, a new integrated HR and payroll management system is scheduled to
come online by 2020. This new system will replace and integrate different
systems currently deployed in several ministries and public agencies. The
system will automate many manual HR processes and claims and enhance
productivity. Our officers can also benefit from integrated and structured
career development and learning platforms.
Ms Chia Yong Yong asked about public service
employment of persons with disabilities. I have asked our public agencies and
ministries to look seriously into this and how we can do more and do better. In
recent years, we have introduced a number of initiatives in collaboration with
SG Enable, the agency set up to help persons with disabilities gain employment.
For instance, the Public Service posts suitable vacancies on SG Enable’s job
portal. We are also appointing champions among senior management in our
agencies to drive the hiring and integration of persons with disabilities in
their organisations. We also partner Voluntary Welfare Organisations to create
job opportunities. One of our agencies, Vital, worked with the Autism Resource
Centre to hire persons with disabilities to support the digitisation of files.
The Public Service has employed about 270
persons with disabilities by end 2016. As an inclusive employer, the Public
Service will continue to find ways to expand opportunities for persons with
disabilities to take on meaningful jobs in accordance with their abilities.
Madam Chairperson, let me thank Members once
again for their strong support for the Public Service.
The Public Service has played an important role
in Singapore’s nation building. Even as we transform, we remain guided by the
core values of Integrity, Service and Excellence.
The Public Service will continue to partner Singaporeans
and businesses to transform our economy and seize new opportunities. We will
continue to ensure good governance and effective execution to prepare Singapore
and Singaporeans for the future.