“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Group President of Government of Singapore Investment Corporation Mr Lim Siong Guan quoted Steve Jobs, to set the tone for his session on public service excellence. This was part of the first-ever Contemporary Policy Debates in Singapore Programme, organised by Executive Education at LKY School.
In recent years, a number of contentious issues have emerged in Singapore’s political and policy landscape. The government’s widely admired solutions in a number of areas have come under greater public scrutiny; they are also more contested today. Policymaking in Singapore has become more complex, the trade-offs have become starker, and government’s space for manoeuvre has narrowed.
With this in mind, a diverse group of 33 participants comprising managers, assistant directors and directors from the Singapore government and media organisations participated in the first-ever Contemporary Policy Debates in Singapore Programme. Delivered over eight days in November 2013, the programme gave participants varied perspectives on the current and future policy challenges facing Singapore. Taught by the School’s faculty members and adjunct professors, the programme included a primer on the policy process, a case study on the Population White Paper, the challenge of rethinking Singapore’s housing policies, transport and urban policies, healthcare, and a panel discussion that examined Singapore’s social contract and economic model in light of changing sociopolitical, demographic and economic realities. Participants also visited Bukit Brown as part of a module on public engagement.
Highlighting valuable learning experiences from the programme, Ms Yah Shze Min from the Ministry of Trade and Industry said, “the programme has provided insights on how and why Singapore’s socio-economic and political landscapes have changed, and provided tools and suggestions on how best to design or evaluate policies. On a personal level, I am also more acutely aware of the challenges Singapore would face if policies were not tailored properly, or if problems fail to be anticipated in time.”
Another participant, Mr Seetoh Cheng Kuok from the Singapore Sports Council felt that “the programme is an eye-opener for anyone who wants to understand the complexity of policy formulation in Singapore. I would strongly recommend anyone from public service performing the role of planning and policy formulation to attend.”
Ms Tan Qiuyi, a producer from MediaCorp, said that the programme was an “eye-opening and invigorating course that gave an honest, unflinching and critical analysis of Singapore’s policy challenges in a difficult time.”