Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Chan Chun Sing dialogue with Foreign Correspondents Association of Singapore

'Business continuity' no matter who's next Prime Minister, says Chan Chun Sing
By Elgin Toh, Insight Editor, The Straits Times, 31 Oct 2017

No matter who becomes the next prime minister from the team of fourth-generation leaders, there will be "business continuity" in Singapore, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

This is because the overall set of policies would have been "thought through by the team, carried by the team, owned by the team", said Mr Chan, one of the leading prospects for the post.

Factors such as personality and style make a difference "at the margins", but they do not affect the country's overall policy direction, he added.

"You are not going to expect that if Person A becomes the prime minister (instead of) Person B, the direction is going to be so diametrically opposite as to cause a huge discontinuity or disruption."

He also said the members of the current fourth-generation team can cover each other as their strengths and weaknesses overlap, "as in playing football".

Mr Chan was speaking at a dialogue with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association (FCA), during which he was asked for his views on the next prime minister.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said recently that the next PM is likely to be in the current Cabinet.

Those seen as front runners for the top job include Mr Chan, Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat and Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung.

When FCA president Sharanjit Leyl of BBC asked him point blank: "Would you like the job?", Mr Chan said: "All of us have to be prepared to do the job when called upon."

Repeating a quote by Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan, he said: "'In Singapore, leadership is a responsibility to be borne, not a position to be sought.' You might think that we sound very cliche but I think I can speak for my fellow colleagues that we all believe in this."

He added: "We all are where we are because of what the Singapore system has given us... But all of us know that when called upon, we must not shirk from our responsibility."

The "bigger challenge" Singapore should focus on, he added, is not the fourth generation of leaders, but whether younger people beyond the fourth generation will step into politics.

He said: "If the country is at war, there's an epidemic, there's a famine, there's a recession, the whole place is upside down, maybe you will have people who are very passionate who will come forth, sacrifice their personal aspirations, family and so forth, to govern the country, very much like the 1965 generation.

"But it is a fact that in every successful country, the more successful you are, the more difficult it is to find people... to come forth to serve, over and beyond what they want to do for themselves."

Last night, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) said the Reuters wire agency "ran a fabricated headline alleging Minister Chan Chun Sing had said he is prepared to serve as PM".

Reuters claimed Mr Chan said "he is prepared to become next PM if called upon".

Mr Chan had in fact said: "All of us have to be prepared to do the job when called upon." He was referring to the entire fourth-generation leadership, and not to himself, said MCI.

The ministry statement added: "It is irresponsible of a wire agency like Reuters to fabricate quotes like this".

Singapore must work hard at staying relevant: Chan Chun Sing
This means capitalising fully on global network of ideas, he says
By Elgin Toh, Insight Editor, The Straits Times, 31 Oct 2017

For Singapore to continue transcending its geographical limits, it must work hard at staying relevant to the world and never take that relevance for granted, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

In economics, this means capitalising fully on the global network of ideas - by having Singaporeans spend more time abroad as well as work collaboratively with talent in other countries, he said.

Citing his own experience of working in Jakarta for two years when he was a military officer, he said he learnt a great deal from it.

Singaporeans should be more willing to take up overseas work postings and venture to places others may be less willing to go to, such as cities other than New York, London, Beijing and Tokyo, he said.

"The big multinational corporations and start-ups are looking for people who understand not just the Singapore market but also the regional and global markets.

"So for Singaporeans to get those much-sought-after jobs, you must have an international, regional exposure," said Mr Chan.

At the same time, Singapore needs to stay attractive to talent from overseas, whether they move to Singapore to work or simply "come through" Singapore, he said.

For instance, Singapore will never have enough talent in blockchain in the short term to build up the industry, he said of the up-and-coming disruptive technology. "Then the question is how can you tap the global network to get those ideas."

When asked if Singapore will consider dual citizenship - an issue linked to the global flow of talent - Mr Chan said there are "security considerations" for not having it.

As Singapore is small and vulnerable, citizenship comes with the responsibility to defend the country, he said. While it may be easier to imagine dual citizenship between Singapore and a faraway country like Switzerland, it gets harder for countries close to Singapore, he added.

"I have to be very confident that when we go into operations, we are all aligned in our motivations and our objectives. That must be true for any military," he said.

Mr Chan was speaking at an hour-long dialogue with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association of Singapore. Other topics he covered included the Oxley Road dispute and the fourth generation of political leadership.

On foreign policy, he said staying relevant involves constantly trying to understand what the interests of other nations are, and trying to find common ground between them and Singapore's interests.

It is the reason Singapore chose to open Changi Naval Base to the Americans and the Chinese - to add value to its relations with the two powers, he said.

Noting that Singapore, unlike bigger countries, has no natural right to be invited to international conferences, he said: "We have to earn our keep. And for a small country to earn our keep, it is never easy."

'Silver lining' to Oxley Road dispute
By Elgin Toh, Insight Editor, The Straits Times, 31 Oct 2017

The "silver lining" in the Oxley Road dispute is that it shows Singapore is serious about the rule of law, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing said yesterday.

The dispute between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his siblings over the family house at 38, Oxley Road, also shows Singapore has leaders who tackle difficult issues head on without dodging responsibility, he added, citing the ministerial committee set up to consider options for the house.

Mr Chan made these points at a lunch dialogue with members of the Foreign Correspondents Association, when he was asked by a journalist from The Nikkei of Japan for his views on the saga, which broke in June this year.

On the rule of law, Mr Chan said the incident showed "no man is above the law". "Not even our founding prime minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, put himself above the law," he said, adding that this gave confidence that the rule of law applied to everyone - "regardless of your position in life".

He was referring to how Mr Lee's earlier wish of wanting the house demolished was not executed by default, as it was subject to due processes under the relevant laws.

"If Mr Lee had put himself above the law, I think it will send a very different signal to the international community on what you can look to Singapore for," he said.

On those who ask why the Government could not respect Mr Lee's wishes, Mr Chan said: "We have solutions to achieve both respecting his wish and also the longer term national perspective."

Moving on to the ministerial committee studying options for the house, Mr Chan said it shows the country has leaders who will "take it upon themselves to bear the responsibility for the decisions of their generation".

The committee - headed by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean - came under criticism from PM Lee's siblings, who questioned its secrecy and the need for its existence.

Mr Chan said: "If Mr Lee has his personal wish and no one in the current or future Cabinet would have the sense of responsibility to think through the issue in context, according to the needs of the society at the time, what would it speak about the quality of leadership in Singapore?"

He added: "The fact that you have people who are prepared to sit down, look at the issue dispassionately, examine the options, put it to the people, it speaks well for the country."

While the Oxley Road incident is "unfortunate", he said the overall response to it bodes well for the country.

"The incident won't define us. Our responses to the incident will define us," he added.

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