The Singapore Government has not “gone slack,” and its leaders will do whatever it takes to put things right, Finance Minister Mr. Heng Swee Keat assured Singaporeans on 9 Feb.
Mr. Heng, the frontrunner to be Singapore’s next prime minister, was responding to an editorial published by Lianhe Zao Bao on 1 Feb. In the recent spate of events, such as the National Service training deaths and the HIV data leak, the editorial pointed to complacency as one of the reasons for such happenings.
Mr. Heng dismissed the suggestion that the political leadership has “gone soft on ourselves” or “allowed the whole system to go slack,” and failed to hold senior leaders accountable when things go wrong.
In his commentary published in the Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao, he cited two ways to tackle these challenges – to ensure accountability and setting a culture in striving for better performance.
Mr. Heng also pointed out that each generation of leaders has its own set of challenges and severe incidents and only through these painful lessons and collective efforts, Singapore has achieved a high level of development.
New risks will arise as more extensive, and more complex systems are being incorporated in today’s society, he said. Singapore has had to anticipate and manage these risks.
When failures occur, they will be investigated thoroughly, and in serious cases, the independent Committees of Inquiry (COIs) will convene, Mr. Heng said with regards to accountability issues.
He also said that the Prime Minister holds ministers accountable for running their ministries properly and correcting any shortcomings uncovered. He assured that when lapses occur, the government will deal with them transparently and honestly to restore confidence in the systems and to maintain the trust of Singaporeans.
He further emphasized that if the lapse occurs due to the negligence or incompetence of a leader, serious actions will be taken, including dismissal.
Lastly, Mr. Heng urged Singaporeans to learn from the Japanese and the Swiss as a society, and uphold a strong sense of personal responsibility and meticulous attention to details.
“We must strengthen such personal mindsets at all levels of society, from the heads of organizations to front-line workers, in the private sector and the Government. Though this imposes high demands on every Singaporean, we will persist on this path. If we become complacent and slack, we are finished,” he concluded.
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