Standards set too high for political talent?

I refer to the articles “Two-party system ‘not workable in S’pore due to shortage of talent'” and “Putting together S’pore’s next A-Team …”(April 6).

The Prime Minister’s remarks that there is not enough talent to form two first-class teams to govern Singapore well were aptly put and timely, in light of the fact that Singapore has just come out of its worst recession with sterling job growth, record GDP growth of 14.5 per cent last year and record foreign investments.

Since there were an unprecedented five financial crises in the last 13 years, for Singapore to sustain its phenomenal economic development in future may be challenging. Hence, I agree with Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s timely call to focus on what needs to be done to ensure we have the right talent to lead Singapore for the next five years.

At practically every international meeting that I have been invited to speak on Singapore’s development model (such as the Organisation of American States General Assembly, Caribbean Development Bank Board of Governors Annual Meeting, etc) leaders of other countries were full of praise for the Singapore miracle, and many developing countries see Singapore as the ideal model to emulate.

While some Singaporeans have complained about our foreign talent policy, and the fielding of new citizens in the coming General Election, I would like to point out that many of our current ministers – such as Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan, who has built our health care system into one that has received international praise – and past ministers like the late Mr Goh Keng Swee, were not Singapore-born Singaporeans.

If we don’t have enough talent among the two million or so adult Singaporeans today, the only obvious solution is to attract foreign talent who may eventually sink their roots here as new citizens.

The International Monetary Fund has cited our education system as a model for others. However, the fact that we cannot find enough talent could indicate that we may need to review our education system, which some studies and commentators have said produces graduates who are very efficient and hard-working, but somewhat lacking in creativity, entrepreneurial spirit – and now, arguably, leadership talent too.

Also, we may perhaps need to review our political leadership selection process, which could arguably be too vigorous, daunting and of too high a standard, such that we are now in the predicament of not having enough talent to govern Singapore going forward.

We may be suffering from too much of a good thing, as they say, because even given the sterling credentials, achievements and track record of new candidates this election, most Singaporeans may feel they are not “good enough” for politics. This, in my view, may be a significant contributing factor to our lack of talent in the policitical sphere.

This letter is only available online.