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1/17/2012

The Civil Service is the backbone of the country

The obsessive attention on the politicians and their political pay package has distracted the people from the vital role the civil service plays in the running of the country. The politicians come and go, by choice or by being ousted by the people when they are no longer trusted. The civil servants are career employees who will be there to serve whichever govt that comes to power. They will only have to leave with the politicians should they be compromised or be beholden to the incumbent political leadership and leaving is the only option when the benefactors depart.

The core of talents of the govt is in the civil servants. They are really the talented ones, the scholars. They will do a very good job under good and dedicated leaders. They will only go astray under misguided leadership or compromised to work for politicians instead of the people.

A politician is a politician. The honourable and selfless ones will devote their energy and effort to serve the people. The less honourable ones will be less for the people and more for self. They will keep telling you how much sacrifice they have to take to serve the people, loss of privacy, loss of income, lower quality of life etc etc. It is always about themselves and their own interests. There are plenty of examples in history of good and bad political leaders.

What in my view are good political leadership? A sense of commitment to serve country and people. For these, you don’t need rocket scientists or top surgeons or top lawyers or top money earners. What is needed are people with a heart in the right place and good or above average intelligence to know what is good for country and people. Too clever people with the heart in the wrong place, in their pockets, are unsuitable for political leadership. There must be honour and moral righteousness in people assuming political leadership. Nothing less.

A good political leadership can always count on the pool of top talents in the Civil Service to do the meticulous work of running the country. And they are there to set the right direction for the people and country, not for themselves. They are there also as the guiding light, to lead by examples, to control the civil servants to do the right things. They can only do that when they are upright and honourable, and above money and rewards.

Yes it is about leadership, lead by examples. The idea of paying leaders to motivate them is rubbish, ludicrous. Leaders don’t need to be motivated by monetary rewards or any rewards. They lead the way, they show the way. It is ridiculous for leaders to ask for rewards to do better. Unbelieveable! They can even be paid lesser than the civil servants who are professionals in their work who are there as career employees, not someone parachuted from somewhere, without a clue about govt or the technical abilities of specialised ministries and starts to act and behave like experts.

Political leaders are decision makers, acting on the advice and recommendations of the professionals, the civil servants. Their main concerns are nation and people’s interests, the good of the people and country. They are the checks and balance on the civil servants. The civil servant may be ruthlessly efficient in their jobs, cold and calculative, living by every rule in the book. It is the politician that is there to make them more compassionate and people centric. The decision making process is important and the self serving may argue that this is more valuable, money wise, than just getting the work done. Agree. But such thought already disqualify a political leader from leading as the thought is self serving, greed.

It will be good for political leaders to be as technically competent as the civil servants, but not a pre requisite. In reality it is not always possible. But a good mind and a good heart will lead to good decisions. A misplaced heart will never lead to good decisions, but self serving decisions.

The civil servants and the politicians have different roles, complimentary and also in contrary to each other. They support and assist each other as well as checking on each other. When the interest of the two merges, for the good of people and country, things will be well. When their interests merge for their own good, then there will be chaos and the interests of people and nation compromised.

It is vital to preserve and maintain the integrity and independence of the Civil Service from politicians and vice versa. When the two are in cahoot, the people and nation will fall victims to their self serving schemes and policies.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear redbean,
Before this current flood (I mean pond) of books by LKY, there was an earlier deluge of LKY books written by Alex Josey.

Anyhow, LKY acknowledged the same points you are making. That it was bad to politicize the civil service. But because of talent shortage. Had no choice but to recruit from civil service.

I liked LKY back then.
He had the intellectual honesty to admit the short cuts he was taking.
Now. Well. You decide.

Matilah_Singapura said...

You'll always get some politicisation. Afterall, it is politicians who in parliament create or destroy jobs in the civil service

Anonymous said...

Yes, there will always be some politicization of the civil service.

Honesty is when you admit it.

Dishonesty is when you deny it.
So then, what else are you being dishonest about?