SINGAPORE: Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said Singapore should try to improve its system of meritocracy to ensure that it continues to benefit society, and this means showing compassion, even while meritocracy is at work.
Mr Goh said this is especially since meritocracy seems to have taken on some negative connotations of late.
These include growing income inequality, which Mr Goh noted has created resentment, envy and competition in schools, which has resulted in stress for parents and children.
He said some who have not done as well see meritocracy as a system that benefits those with resources and one which impairs their social mobility.
Mr Goh said he understood why it is difficult for some to be enthusiastic about the system, which they think has not benefited them the same way as others.
He said: "We do not want a society whose citizens seek to advance their own interests without a care for others, or worse, at the expense of others. I call this ‘selfish meritocracy’. It is up to those of us who can, to reach back and help those behind to climb the ladder with us, and not to pull up the ladder behind us. Those who have risen to the top owe the greatest responsibility to help the weaker in society. A ‘compassionate meritocracy’ can help us build a resilient and inclusive society. A ‘selfish meritocracy’ will divide us and ruin our society.”
Mr Goh was speaking at Ain Society's charity dinner on Saturday evening.
He said the society is an example of "compassionate meritocracy" at work.
Mr Goh stressed Singapore has achieved much because it has practiced a fair and transparent system of meritocracy, rather than relying on connections or wealth.
Investing heavily in education and giving every Singaporean ample opportunity to succeed has also helped to level the playing field, added Mr Goh.
Having invested in realising the potential of Singaporeans, Mr Goh said it is natural for some to do better than others.
He stressed the solution is not to hold people back in the interest of equality of outcomes, or to do away with meritocracy altogether, but for people to help others with compassion. - CNA/xq
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