Saturday, June 10, 2006

Response: Private Sector Talent In Government


Of the eight new office-holders appointed, five are from corporations. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for an easier 'two-way flow' between private-sector talent and the public sector. The Straits Times published a story on this issue on 3 June 2006: "Private enterprise, public service". What is your response?

One of the things the PAP government realised in its early days was we lacked the entreprenuerial calibre that made Hong Kong tick. We sought to fill that gap through "quasi-entrepreneurs" in Singapore Airlines, Temasek Holdings, Housing & Development Board, etc. And these organisations were helmed by the entrepreneurs and private sector talents, such as Lim Kim San and Richard Hu. We now seem to be stretching the "quasi-entrepreneur" into the realm of private sector talent. Ask the reasonable person on the street and the person is likely to tell you that Temasek Holdings, PSA and even the NTUC cooperatives are not really private sector; they are, in fact, government-linked entities.

Thus, Amy Khor and Teo Ser Luck are clearly private sector. It will be interesting to see if Amy Khor and Teo Ser Luck will one day go on to be full ministers.

Over time, the People's Action Party appears to have lost the ability to attract the likes of Lim Kim San and Richard Hu. It is telling that the opposition parties featured a better slate of such entrepreneurs and private sector talents in the recent elections. Of those that the PAP currently attracts, very few go on to be the calibre that Lim Kim San and Richard Hu represented; some are also eased out after one or two tems. I think our policy-makers now accept this, and that's why they have sought to engage such entrepreneurs and private sector talents through alternative channels.

Does this then mean our parliamentary democracy needs to be changed? My answer would be no. To me, it is simply an indication that the PAP needs to change and I think the PAP leaders have already recognised this.

Dharmendra Yadav

*Part of this response was published in The Straits Times (Singapore) on 10 June 2006.

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