21 Jul 2015

PSC Scholarships Award Ceremony – Speech by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs

Mr Eddie Teo, Chairman of the Public Service Commission

Members of the PSC

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen


1.     Good evening. Congratulations to the 75 scholarship recipients at today's PSC Scholarships Award Ceremony. I also congratulate your families, principals and teachers whose support and guidance have been instrumental in helping you to develop and grow. 
Building on the Foundations Laid by Our Pioneers
2.     This year marks the 50th year of our nation's independence. In the past 50 years, our public officers have worked closely with our political leadership and Singaporeans in our nation-building journey – from Third World to First. From living in cramped conditions in squatter settlements, and in kampungs without sanitation and utilities in our early days, building one flat every 50 minutes, to arrive at our modern public housing estates today. Building one school a month in the early years, and gradually improving the quality of our teachers so that our students receive a good education that prepares them for further education and the job market. Attracting investments and creating good job opportunities for Singaporeans, bringing unemployment down from 10% in 1965, to 2% today. Cleaning up crime and corruption to have a safe and secure Home. Having our sovereignty protected by a nascent Singapore Armed Forces with the first batch of full-time National Servicemen called up and officers commissioned in 1967, to the capable, internationally respected armed forces today.
3.     The work of our public officers has transformed the lives of Singaporeans – bringing peace, progress and prosperity. Compared to our early days, Singaporeans today enjoy a better standard of living, have better-paying jobs in a more diversified economy, and feel safer and more secure as they go about their daily lives.
4.     All this would not have been possible without able, honest and dedicated public officers – serving in and leading the Public Service. Because our Pioneer and subsequent generations of public officers painstakingly built up the values, systems, processes and infrastructure in the Service, we now have an effective, efficient and trusted Public Service that is well-regarded at home and abroad. Leaders and officials from other countries are keen to understand how we do things in the Singapore Public Service, and see what they can adapt and apply to their own countries.
5.     But the Public Service cannot stand still. The Public Service is continually seeking to improve, to be more effective, to serve Singaporeans better, working with political leaders and Singaporeans to create a brighter future together. This is the cornerstone of our nation-building journey and why we are in the Public Service – putting Singaporeans at the centre of all that we do.
Building an Even Better Public Service for the Future
6.     50 years on, the issues that we face today are different, but no less challenging. How can we take better care of the less fortunate to ensure that all Singaporeans benefit from the fruits of development? How can we help Singaporeans to deepen their skills throughout life, and not just while in school? How do we overcome our resource constraints, and turn vulnerabilities into strengths? How do we take care of our aging population and support Singaporeans in their aspirations to raise a family? How do we restructure our economy and jobs to meet the aspirations of an increasingly well-educated population? We need to ask and answer questions like these, not just within the Public Service, but also more importantly through consultation and dialogue sessions like "Our Singapore Conversation", co-creating the policies and programmes with fellow Singaporeans.
7.     The Public Service continues to play a key role in this next phase of our nation-building journey. Whether we can continue to have a good Public Service for the next 50 years and beyond depends very much on whether we can continue to attract, develop and retain good people in the Service.
8.     The PSC scholarship remains an important channel to bring in young people who choose to become public officers at the start of their careers. Each year, PSC scholarships are awarded on merit, regardless of financial background, to deserving young men and women who demonstrate a commitment and passion to serve our country. This key tenet of meritocracy allows the Commission to select the best students with the heart to serve Singapore and Singaporeans.
9.     From this year, we are unifying the PSC's Overseas Merit Scholarship, Local-Overseas Merit Scholarship and Singapore Government Scholarship into a single "PSC Scholarship". This is in line with the establishment of the Public Service Leadership Programme (PSLP) through which our officers with high potential, including our PSC scholarship recipients, will now be recruited. The PSC will focus on selecting candidates with a clear potential for the Public Service Leadership Programme.
10.    PSLP officers in the General Phase will gain experience in different aspects of public sector work. Subsequently, some will proceed on the more sectorally specialised track of the PSLP. Others will go on to the Administrative Service and take up cross-sectoral postings across the Public Service. This allows the Public Service to have a range of officers with skills that complement each other – some with deep domain expertise, while others have experience integrating whole-of-government policy and execution across sectors and agencies.
11.    Through development programmes and career opportunities provided under the PSLP, the Public Service will build up a core of officers and leaders who collectively have the depth and the breadth to tackle the more complex and inter-connected challenges facing Singapore. This will ensure that the Public Service is well-placed to serve Singaporeans in the years to come.
12.    But the PSC scholarship is only one channel to attract good people to join the Public Service. The Public Service welcomes all candidates who have the right skills, passion and motivation to serve Singaporeans. The PSLP draws from officers currently working in our Government agencies, people with prior work experience in the private sector, as well as fresh graduates seeking their first job. Indeed, these three groups accounted for a third of the officers appointed to the PSLP General Phase in 2014.
Preparing for the Future
13.    The PSLP and the changes to the PSC Scholarship are aimed at ensuring that we will continue to have a Public Service that is ready to tackle the challenges of the future. As this year's scholarship recipients, you are joining the Public Service at an exciting time. We need public officers like you to analyse issues deeply, and develop innovative solutions; to understand Singaporeans' needs better, and work with Singaporeans to develop better solutions; to work with one another, within your own ministries and agencies, and across the whole of government.
14.    In the work that you do, remember to uphold the Public Service values of Integrity, Service and Excellence. Remember that you have a responsibility to make Singapore better than what it is today, so that we can progress towards SG100 with hope and optimism.
15.    I wish you all the best as you embark on your studies, and look forward to your contributions when you return to serve in the Singapore Public Service. Thank you.
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