Chan: How to build a meritocratic system where individual’s achievement determined by talent?

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At a keynote speech in Insead Alumni Forum Asia yesterday (10 Nov), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that governments and companies must first build a meritocratic system of talent and trades in order to imbue a sense of stewardship in people so that business can be a “force of good”.

“How do we bring about this concept of stewardship and imbue that into the next generation where the definition of our success is not how well we do for ourselves here and now, but the definition of our success is how well we enable our next generation to do even better than us?” he asked.

“That is our challenge, and that is a tall order.”

“How do we build a system that allows the human potential to flourish? How do we build a meritocratic system of talent and trades where each and every individual’s achievement is determined by his talent, effort and commitment, and never by his language, race, religion, ancestry or family ties,” he added.

This is fundamental, as businesses and governments will never be able to convince people that they are here to do good if people cannot hope to fulfil their potential without facing barriers along the way, he said.

“We need to speak to the individual aspirations of our people, no matter how diverse those aspirations might be,” he added.

Achievement determined by “military ties”?

However, in recent years, Singapore seems to be building a system that allows SAF military men to flourish.

Take for example in 2012 when SMRT was searching for a CEO, it selected LG (NS) Desmond Kuek, former Chief of Defence Force, to be its CEO after an “extensive search and selection process”.

At the time, then SMRT chairman Koh Yong Guan introduced LG (NS) Kuek to the public, “After an extensive search and selection process, we are pleased that we have someone of Desmond’s background and calibre joining SMRT as the new CEO. SMRT is undergoing considerable change, not just in the way we operate transport services and serve our customers, but also how we will continue to grow as a company. Desmond has the attributes and proven qualities to lead SMRT through these challenges.”

Even more unbelievably, in Apr this year, SMRT again chose another former Chief of Defence Force, LG (NS) Neo Kian Hong to replace LG (NS) Kuek as CEO after a “global search”.

The “global search” for a new CEO was initiated when LG (NS) Kuek offered to resign soon after last October’s tunnel-flooding incident.

Hence, with all the global searches, the conclusion is that SAF generals are deemed to be the best in the world who can do almost anything.

Certainly, Minister Chan, a former Chief of Army and a Major-General (MG) himself would probably agree readily.

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