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Success of policies lies in trust in Govt: PM

He sets out the tenets public sector must uphold to raise people's trust
The Straits Times - October 1, 2013
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Success of policies lies in trust in Govt: PM

THE success of major policies that Singapore is undertaking hinges on one key factor: the trust citizens have in the Government, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

And the public sector plays a pivotal role in strengthening this trust, he added, as he set out the tenets it must follow in implementing policies and ensuring zero tolerance for corruption.

These include having a public service that operates seamlessly across all agencies, always sees things from the viewpoint of those it serves, and is in touch with the ground.

It must also uphold the highest standards of integrity, with leaders taking command responsibility and setting a good example.

Speaking to some 250 public service leaders at an annual planning seminar, he added that trust is essential for the Government to operate because without basic trust in the State, "none of our plans can make it off the paper and be realised".

"There will be no end to the demands for more reviews, or doubts about whether a policy is to benefit those with connections rather than the public good."

For this reason, the Government is firm on protecting the integrity of the system and its key people against unfounded attacks, because "if they go unchallenged, they will slowly erode trust".

In his National Day Rally speech in August, PM Lee outlined big policy shifts in housing, education and health care as he pledged his Government's commitment to improve Singaporeans' lives and give everyone a share in the country's success.

Yesterday, he stressed the importance of implementation, and that to do it well, "we have to see things from the perspectives of those... who are on the receiving end".

Crucial in this process, Mr Lee added, is staying in close touch with the ground.

Citing the new MediShield Life scheme which provides medical coverage for life to all Singaporeans, Mr Lee said it involves many trade-offs. "That is why the Ministry of Health is taking its time to consult the public, engage insurance companies and work out the specific details, and in the process, have the public educated," he said.

However, in upholding Singapore's national interests, the public sector must not be "captured by special interest groups" or the group it is regulating.

"If the policy is not working - fix it," he said.

If the policy is painful but necessary, like the tightening of foreign worker inflows, then "communicate our intent, fine-tune the policies, smooth off the rough edges wherever possible".

"But hold our ground on the core of the policies," he said.

Mr Lee also urged public service leaders to ensure their front- line service staff give good and courteous service to the public.

But at the same time, people need to be courteous as well, he added.

To maintain a clean public service, Mr Lee called on its leaders to be personally responsible for upholding high standards of integrity in their organisations.

"Ultimately, integrity is not about systems and processes but values... Each officer and the public service as a whole must take pride in being clean and incorrupt. This is your command responsibility. You cannot devolve it to your subordinates," he said.

"Every case involving a public servant and public money is one case too many," he noted.

The public service will strengthen its systems to "dispel any doubts that our standards have gone down", he said, as the Public Service Division announced yesterday tighter rules for its officers, including stricter measures on casino visits.

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