Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Those public servants have to be specifically told to serve people with humility, integrity and empathy?

After hearing from government servants (no this is not a typo, they appears to be serving the government, not the people) bragging about spending some families' anuual budget on a French cooking trip, calling the people names like the "lesser mortals", suggesting to take away the Saturday breaks from the people because they are not bearing enough children, or so blur as to not knowing how much salaries and bonuses his people are getting... Finally we see some others from the govenment that make more sense...

Empathy is even more vital
Source: TODAYonline.com

AS AN officer in a ministry that controls the Government’s purse-strings, Mr Musa Fazalur Karim last week attached himself to an agency that gives the funds away.

The Finance Ministry deputy director (Social Programmes) saw first-hand the challenges Community Development Councils face when dealing with more and more residents seeking financial assistance.

That experience at the Southeast CDC, said the 31-year-old, allowed him to better grasp the situation and examine if more funding for manpower could be provided. “You receive a lot of information from ministries but most of it is second-hand. It is better to go down and take a look.”

With Singapore in its worst recession yet, Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar last night reminded public servants to serve people “with humility, integrity and empathy”.

Public services should not be delivered mechanically, and public policies cannot be formulated based purely on intellectual understanding of issues or theoretical models,” he said, at the Administrative Service Dinner and Promotion ceremony. “It is necessary for Administrative Officers to keep in close touch with concerns and sentiments on the ground.”

Indeed, 15 officers are slated to be attached this year to grassroots organisations, where they can contribute and get an up-close experience of socio-economic conditions on the ground, revealed head of Civil Service Peter Ho.

“It is even more important that our officers are sensitive to ground issues and concerns” during this downturn when Singaporeans are struggling to cope, said Mr Ho. To be effective in policy planning and development, they “must be able to empathise” with people’s difficulties.

Even as Singapore focuses on its immediate and local problems, Professor Jayakumar urged the Administrative Service to keep an international outlook and take a strategic, long-term view.

“Gone are the days when it was just MFA or MTI which had to deal with international issues,” he said.

Today, nearly every ministry is involved, be it over climate change, national security or foreign worker policy.

Mr Musa Fazalur was among 82 civil servants who received their appointments as Administrative Officers and Management Associates yesterday.

It is strange that public servants (still not used to us the lesser mortals calling these greater mortals "servants") have to be told that it is necessary for them to keep in close touch with concerns and sentiments on the ground. I would have thought that this is part of their roles and responsibilities, written in black and white on their employee handbooks. Silly me.

Finally someone who realised that public policies cannot be formulated based purely on intellectual understanding of issues or theoretical models. I would suggest a separate meeting, or better still, a 3D2N bootcamp, specifically organised to drill this basic common sense into the brains of those expensive scholars, whose enormous brains have all the spaces for all the policies from A-Z and red tapes or tapes of any other colors, but teeny little space reserved for the peoples' real requirements.

Time for them to get out of their air-conditioned office and try how is it like to squeeze into a MRT train in the morning peak hours, how is it like to go to the market with a fifty dollar note to find out how little food can be bought for a family of four, how is it like to spend a day in an one-room flat or a three-room flat in one of the oldest and well forgotten estate. However, to them, these tasks could be even tougher than those that were done in The Amazing Race. So I would suggest the purchase of some sort insurance coverage. Just in case.

And when these public servants are told "It is better to go down and take a look", I hope someone would highlight to them that employing some interns to make cold calls and fill up stacks of survey forms does not count. Seriously.



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