Eddie Teo – The ethos of an era

There is an article in the ST on 28 Apr by the Eddie Teo, the Chairman of PSC on the ethos of a bygone era, the things that the Civil Service breathed and lived by. The story of the Civil Service is best summarized by what Eddie Teo said in these paragraphs.

‘There was already a strong ethos of incorruptibility. I recently met Mr David Rivkin, President of the International Bar Association, who asked how our ethos of zero tolerance for corruption was imparted to, and sustained in, the public service. I told him there had been no training classes or brainwashing sessions.

But public servants watched and followed the examples shown by our political masters.  We were incorruptible because they were incorruptible. We saw that they lived simple, frugal and unostentatious lives and dedicated themselves totally to nation building and improving the lives of Singaporeans. All the older public servants who worked closely with our pioneer generation political leaders will have stories to tell about their frugal habits. To people like Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Dr Goh Keng Swee, there was no such thing as work life balance. Work was life, and life was work.’

These few paragraphs sum up the ethos and philosophies of a time not too long ago that seemed strangely different from what it is now. And it is only a couple of decades apart. The difference in ethos and values and the motivations of the Civil Servants are simply glaring. And they lived and work and developed a new ethos by the living examples of the political masters today.

Though apparently the message of an incorruptible, merit based and impartial Civil Service is still there, the essence and practices are starkly different from the days gone by.  Indirectly Eddie Teo touched on the new values and aspirations of a new generation of people that looked at life differently and wanted to live life differently and these would and must affect their work style and ethos as civil servants.  Affluence and opulence are the new aspirations and wide income gap is good as it allowed the top to indulge in the decadence of wealth and an extremely good life of plenty.

What makes the new civil servants today are greatly influenced by the affluence of a better time and also by the examples they see in their political masters. They follow the leaders and whatever the leaders do would and must rub down on them. The civil servants of today are not the same as the civil servants of yesteryears, crafted by a confluence of changes from many dimensions.  The aspirations are not similar and the ethos, have they changed?

Policies and political decisions were and are made by politicians. Civil servants are now expected to defend political decisions, in a way compromised to take sides with the politicians. This is a big diversion from the past when the political masters were confident to take a stance and make their own defence.

The emerging problems facing civil servants today is the possibility of a change of political fortune and new political masters on the horizon. How would such a change affect the impartiality of civil servants, their loyalty to party versus dedication to the service of the people, and their tenure of service? Would it affect the ethos of the Civil Service? A relatively less politicized civil service like the British system would provide better continuity than a politicized civil service that would have to go with the flow of political realities, serving the wrong masters of the land. They would have difficulties to stay relevant and remain in the Civil Service when the political masters changed. They are now in the same sampan as the political masters, to float or sink together.


Anonymous said...

"When I made the decision to join politics in 2006, pay was not a key factor.
Loss of privacy, public scrutiny on myself and my family and loss of personal time were,"

She added, "The disruption to my career was also an important consideration.
I had some ground to believe that my family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though I experienced a drop in my income.
So it is with this recent pay cut."

"If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering political office."

"I am honoured to be given the opportunity to serve the people. However, it may not be wise to call for the tradeoffs to be tilted further to an extent that it dissuades good people from coming forward in future. I read today's papers and some readers make the same point."


Anonymous said...

The emerging problems facing civil servants today is the possibility of a change of political fortune and new political masters on the horizon.


But is the Sinkie opposition currently united, strong and ready to be govt?

If not, will the majority (aka 60%) voters dare to vote the PAP out in a GE?

If not, what percent possibility is there of a change of political fortune and new political masters on the horizon, u tell me lah? Or instead of at the ballot box, discontented Sinkies taking to the streets and create a revolution to change their political master?

Virgo49 said...

After NS, given job as customs officer and stationed at Fullerton Building now luxurious
hotel under Mr Hon Sui Sen

At that time our chairs of wood and counter stools of wood and cane. You want to have your butts no so sore sitting whole day then bring your own cushion. Counter stools too short put telephone directories

Chairs infested with bugs and we worked happily, The lifts cranky and old with two doors to close before moving.

See me Hon in lift daily with just white long sleeve shirt and pants and a briefcase.

No obstension,'no airs. Serious gentleman

Now that have thousands dollars chairs and bikes. Ah Kong got duit Liao must spend or bite skin

What a difference our our generation frugality and their spendthrifts habits

Anonymous said...

Eddie Teo?
So what did he do during these last 10 years?
Do nothing right?
Just like the 60%.

Anonymous said...

It seems the May Day rally yesterday (1 May 2015) at HLP organised by Gilbert attracted only just a couple of hundreds in the crowd.

And discontented many Sinkies may be, but we can safely rule out huge crowds of Sinkies taking to the streets to create a revolution to change their political master, if they cannot do so at the ballot box.

Anonymous said...

Just like ex president SR Nathan much earlier, Eddie Teo was a former Director of Security and Intelligence at MINDEF.

Anonymous said...

I think from intelligence gatherings about Sinkies and their sentiments, and perhaps also with help and input from people like Eddie Teo, PM Lee may have concluded that PAP will win big again next GE.

So those well paid senior Sinkie civil servants who support and also like PAP very much need not fear change of political masters, at least not for the next 5 years or so.

Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...

@ RB:

sing-song tok kok chairman:

>> We were incorruptible because they were incorruptible.

1. That simply means that "corruption" in the CS is not a culture, like it is in Indonesia. But then, all the humans in the CS (except for those non native) are from the same CULTURAL STOCK as the rest of the native Singaporeans. And I can say, with confidence, that Singaporeans in general and culturally speaking, are not corruptible. In fact, the opposite might be true---they long to speak truth to power, to express themselves freely, but are stifled and constrained by STUPID LAWS.

Mr Chairman would have scored "extra points" as a communicator by stating that: "Most Singaporeans appear to be upright citizens, and not easily prone to corruption. That is our culture". This is not only a statement of fact, but it would have endeared him to his audience.

2. Having a "zero tolerance" to corruption doesn't mean that corruption can't still occur. Most legal jurisdictions have a zero tolerance to MURDER and RAPE, but we all know murders and rapes occur.

3. Murders, rapes, corruption all occur in generally peaceful and upright cultures. These incidents are "outliers" and are perpetrated by INDIVIDUALS. If there is a murder or rape in Singapore committed by Singaporeans, you'll be the laughing stock if you claimed "Singaporeans are murderers and rapists!". Similarly the occasional case of corruption is not a basis to judge the entire culture as "corrupt".

>> Civil servants are now expected to defend political decisions, in a way compromised to take sides with the politicians.

I don't know if that is true. However, even if it is an "expectation", I doubt it would be widespread--- especially with the rank an file.

The bunch of arrogant holier-than-thou fuckers who get me mad are the Feudal Lords of the isolated and protected Fiefdoms know as the statutory boards.

So far, most things work in Singapore, which is all very peachy for the High and Mighty Lords of the Stat Boards. Good job guys, keep it up!

However when things go awry---like the recent focus on the IDA, and constant focus on CPF---ah, then you see how the Lords will defend their territory, place themselves above scrutiny, tell everyone that they are RIGHT.

I don't think the stat boards are politically aligned. I think that they ae so independent and autonomous, that even if there is political change in the ruling party, the stat boards will still be little fiefdoms wielding far too much power!

And BTW, these folks running the show---bear in mind---ALL OF THEM ARE APPOINTED, not ELECTED.

Anonymous said...

Eddie Teo is correct.

He should have added that it is the Ethos of Greed now, replacing the Ethos of Frugality.

Eddie Teo was the Director of ISD at one time. During that time, ISD was not under SID yet.

But when some Russian spies in Sinkieland were caught by the Military Intelligence people, ISD was then put under SID, under SR Nathan.

That was what I heard. I may be wrong. If so, I stand corrected.

Anonymous said...

love reading matilah. he always makes sense. well, most of the time unless he's in his gila mood.

today i have to select sushi to proof i'm not a robot.

Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...

@ 1248:

>> unless he's in his gila mood.

Wat kok yu tok? My default mood is "gila". Ask my family. Ask my friends. The only variation is the degree of gila, which is dependent on many interrelated factors such as:

i) alcohol content in blood
ii) whether I've had an orgasm (at least one) in the last 24 hours
iii) whether there is a likelihood I will have at least one orgasm in the next 24 hours.

>> i have to select sushi to proof i'm not a robot

Please lah, get yourself a google/ blogger account.

Anonymous said...

Ok, thank you for your confession. Someone please call up IMH and get him lock up quick. Is this the man that hit Amos? Are u, mister gila?