Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I have never been particularly impressed by the government officials in Singapore, well, at least not with their "spirit" of public service. It is difficult to convince anyone you are really doing something for the "good of the country" when at the end of the day, you are getting so much in return FROM the country and its citizens (in terms of renumeration). At best, you can probably say that we have a group of decent administrators running the country, pretty much as any capable management would run a company.

Which is why many skeptics (like me) see Singapore more as a firm, rather than a nation. We're in fact - Singapore Inc.

Besides the issue of our leaders receiving top management pay packages, there're also other striking similarities between this country and a well-managd MNC. They both accept individuals from all over the globe, giving little regard to their country of birth nor their ethnicity, provided they have something of value to contribute to the collective entity - which is a good thing, in my opinion. They both operate in a top-down manner of management, where the leaders decides what's best and steers the group toward what they feel is a better future. Of course, there will be explicit (and open) channels whereby the citizen (read: employee) can provide feedback and voice concerns, but truly - how often are these heard and responded to by the top? And if you're not happy, you are welcome to pack up your bags and head for greener pastures elsewhere, though they will both tell you, "Be a Stayer, not a Quitter". See the similarities?

After the recent National Day Rally speech by PM Lee, I have to admit that managing a country require certain considerations which do not necessarily concern a company. And one of that is - managing the differences and maintaining harmonious living between people of different races & religions.

The managers (boses) in a company would not normally need to fret over such issues and that is because most people are able to relate their work and careers as something close to their daily well-being. It concerns their income and hence their livelihood, so they are unlikely to risk doing something which may jeopardise it in any way. In other words, most of us are willing to work reasonably hard to make sure the company we are working for prosper as an organisation, since we see ourselves as direct "stakeholders". Afterall, who doesn't want a bigger bonus at year end, right?

On a country basis, though, it becomes much harder for people to think that way. Reason being - we have come to take for granted that we'd always have a home to go to when we're tired, the chance to walk on the streets without being harassed, the freedom to visit where we'd like go and to eat what we love to eat. Such civil liberties have long been taken for granted, especially by this generation (not to mention the generation after mine!) of Singaporeans, as we have all grown up in a safe and sheltered environment.
Hence, while many of us know how painful it is to lose a job (if the company we work for closes down), and the stress accompanying the subsequent process of looking for a new one in order to sustain our lives; I seriously do NOT believe many Singaporean can even IMAGINE losing some of those simple civil liberties (as mentioned before) which will happen if the country goes into turmoil as a result of social/racial/religious unrest.

Sometimes, I wonder if many Singaporeans see themselves as direct "stakeholders" in this country. At least I know I often don't - which is a problem, because I should. Well, at least if I consider all those things that I currently have in my life as important, I should. Again, it's a question of having these things for so long that they're assumed to be "given" rights.

Actually, think about it - the average working adult in Singapore usually goes through a couple of job/career changes in his life, but how often does one change citizenship? Like it or not, we have to admit that besides those who are very privileged (ie. wealthy!) or very skilled/qualified, most of us are stuck with the country we are born in. Migrating is usually a very very difficult option to take, one which is filled with obstacles and involves big sacrifices. So doesn't it make sense for us to try our darn best to make our country a better place to live in?


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