Principles of Governance

In National Education, students, especially older ones in secondary and post-secondary levels are encouraged to explore different perspectives and viewpoints, and to analyse the gains and trade-offs involved in resolving conflicting needs in society, before coming to their own reasoned conclusions.   These discussions should be founded on a common set of fundamental values, even as students arrive at a multitude of legitimate conclusions. 

The principles of governance are an important and useful set of common fundamental principles that guide policy deliberations.

The Imperatives of successful Governance in Singapore

What is so unique about Singapore's governance context? We believe the principles are shaped by three key elements:

  1. Unique Nation
    This relates to our physical constraints - our size, lack of natural resources, and a multi-racial society;
  2. Unique Environment
    This relates to fundamental forces in our external environment that influence our existence; and
  3. Unique Government
    This relates to the unique features of our political system, including the legacy of the PAP Government.

Together, these elements make us unique as a country to govern. However, each of these elements is not mutually exclusive but interacts with one another. For example, our physical constraints compel us to leverage on our external environment. Internal and external forces in turn, shape the role of our government.

Based on our unique circumstances, we have identified several imperatives of governance for successful governance in the Singapore context. They are:

  1. the need for good and proactive leadership to ensure that our national interests are protected;
  2. the need for high standards of Government to ensure that public trust is maintained;
  3. the need to optimise our resources and potential to compensate for our shortcomings;
  4. the need to maintain our international space to compensate for our lack of hinterland;
  5. the need to adapt relentlessly and remain relevant in a fast changing world;
  6. the need for greater ingenuity in dealing with challenges;
  7. the need to preserve our core values and identity in order to maintain our distinctiveness;
  8. the need to promote a greater sense of belonging or rootedness in addition to preserving our core values and identity; and
  9. the need for Government to continually re-examine its role to ensure it remains relevant

Key Principles of Our Governance

The four key principles of our governance are

Leadership Is Key

Governance is more than just a set of institutional arrangements to ensure the effective functioning of society. Many countries have democratic elections, separation of powers and systems to hold their bureaucracies accountable to the legislature but they are not necessarily well governed. Effective systems of governance are necessary but the key is the quality of leadership that resides in all the institutions of governance. In fact, quality institutions of governance follow naturally from good leadership.

Reward for Work; Work for Reward

To maintain efficiency and progress, corruption and nepotism must be avoided at all costs. People should be rewarded based on what they do, not who they are. The system of meritocracy in Singapore ensures that the best and brightest, regardless of race, religion and socio-economic background, are encouraged to develop to their fullest potential. Everyone has access to education, which equips them with skills and knowledge to earn a better living.

Singapore believes that welfarism is not viable as it breeds dependency on the government. It has adopted a policy of co-payment to encourage people to assume personal responsibility for their own welfare, though the government does provide subsidies in vital areas like housing, health and education.

A Stake For Everyone, Opportunities For All

All societies seek to create a stake for their citizens but in Singapore's case, it is all the more important because of our origins as an immigrant society. Singapore can only survive if every Singaporean sees their future and that of their fellow countrymen as intertwined. Giving a stake to everyone, not just citizens but all who have a role to play in Singapore's future will help towards this end.

The Government will create opportunities for Singaporeans, regardless of their abilities, to realise their full potential. It will not only develop Singapore as a land of opportunity, but also diverse opportunities. It will create more avenues for Singaporeans to pursue their interests in fields that contribute to Singapore's development as a vibrant and balanced society e.g. sports, arts and culture. However, while ensuring ample opportunities for everyone, the Government cannot, nor should it guarantee equal outcomes.

Anticipate Change, Stay Relevant

This principle encapsulates our basic approach to dealing with our dynamic external environment. While we cannot forecast change in an increasingly volatile environment, we can anticipate it by staying nimble and flexible, and at the same time, exploiting opportunities that come our way.

Framework of Governance

The overall framework can be illustrated as follows:

Framework of Governance

Source: Principles of Governance at the Civil Service College

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