Speeches

Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence at the Valedictory Dinner for NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy Master in Public Administration and Management Class of 2010 on Saturday, 4 Dec 2010 at 6.30 pm at the Fullerton Hotel

Professor Tan Chorh Chuan,

Professor Kishore Mahbubani,

Distinguished Guests, Professors and Students,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening.

I am delighted to be here at the Valedictory Dinner for the inaugural graduating class of the Master in Public Administration and Management (MPAM) programme at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP).

Governance models for Asia

For graduands tonight is a special occasion as after ten months they look forward to positions of greater responsibility where they can put into practice what they would have learnt during this course. But the graduation of this class also signifies a milestone for NUS and LKYSPP. From its inception, the Government had always hoped that the LKYSPP would serve as a platform and learning ground for officials from Asia. We saw salient opportunities that pointed to the need for a school of public policy that could shape the thinking for emerging economies within Asia. Here at LKYSPP it was hoped that students could reflect on strengths and weaknesses of different models of governance and chart for themselves principles and practices which would lead to sustainable development, progress and shared wealth for their respective nations.

The launch of the Master in Public Administration and Management (MPAM) programme and this inaugural graduating class consisting of 55 officials holding important public sector positions from China, such as a deputy chief justice, director generals and deputy secretaries, heralds first fruits of that vision. I was delighted that Minister Li Yuanchao spoke at the launch of this programme in April this year. I am even more delighted that I can share your graduation joy.

Challenging times, Vast Opportunities

Over the last 10 months, participants in the MPAM, have undergone a rigorous programme exposing them to a wide variety of public policy theories, and perhaps more importantly, to rich discussions and interactions with Singaporean leaders and officials in the public service. For example, I understand that participants have taken part in a dialogue with Singapore President S R Nathan on public policies in Singapore, and have gone on visits and attachments to government ministries and statutory boards. I hope that the debates and discussions between the Chinese participants and our leaders and public servants, have provided you with broad and rich perspectives that will guide you in formulating and implementing effective public policies.

This class is graduating amid interesting and challenges times. Put simply, the world is in search of better models of governance, in a broad array of areas that include financial systems, social security, wealth distribution, education and health. Three seismic movements have precipitated drastic changes. First, the global financial crisis in 2008 revealed not only weaknesses inherent in free market capitalism. It has also forced all countries to examine the validity of basic assumptions and the viability of their fiscal policies and socio-economic programmes. In this backdrop, the ability of different forms of governments to respond decisively to their challenges will be tested. Inactivity or ineffectiveness may result in severe political consequences not least a change of governments. For example, we see the recent losses incurred by the Democrats at the US mid-term elections; and recently in Ireland who is suffering from fiscal deficits and rising debts and an appreciable shift of ground support away from the ruling government. Second, irreversible demographic changes related to fertility rates and life expectancy will stress test employment patterns and pension liabilities. Third, the rise of China, India and the shift of economic centre of activity towards the Pacific Rim is inevitable. The US and Western Europe accounted for about 25% of global GDP in 1820. This rose steadily to a peak of more than 50% by the 1950s. According to IMF estimates Asia will overtake the G7 by 2030, and account for over 40% of the world’s GDP.

The challenge for governments in Asia in this shifting landscape is to raise the level of wealth not only for their countries but also for the rest of the world, just as the growth of US and Europe benefited the global community in the last half century. China, as the second largest economy in the world will and can play a decisive role in formulating better regional and global structures that lead to security and stability, greater trade and poverty reduction. As senior officials, you play key roles in this setting.

Reflection of Strong Bilateral Ties

The introduction of this programme in 2010 also marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Singapore. It is testament to the very warm and excellent ties between our two countries, and I am happy to note that the various memoranda of understanding (MOUs), to be signed later today, will reinforce this strong level of co-operation.

Initiatives such as this one build on many existing platforms for exchange between the public service from both countries, such as the one between Tianjin and the Civil Service College. I hope that there will be more mutual exchanges of civil servants and academics between Singapore and China as a result of these initiatives. I also hope that the friendships you have formed here will continue to deepen over the years.

Conclusion

To the MPAM participants and graduates, my heartiest congratulations and my best wishes for your future careers.

Thank you.