Singapore prides itself on its system of meritocracy. Thanks to our state propaganda machine, ‘meritocracy’ has been regurgitated by citizens to the extent that it has now become a ‘fact’.
‘Meritocracy’ is defined as ‘a system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement’. However, most leaders are not selected based on ‘individual ability or achievement’ but fast tracked to top positions since day one based on possessing academic excellence. A number of incompetent leaders and past failures are easily identified.
‘Merit’ is defined as ‘the quality of being particularly good or worthy’. The government wants citizens to believe that scholars who are parachuted into key positions is based on their merits. Why then is our country in such a mess with an increasing number of unhappy citizens? The truth is leaders are parachuted into key positions not based on merit. They do not have sufficient time/experience on the job to achieve anything of significance to justify their leadership role.
Meritocracy in Singapore is equated with only academic excellence. This has been aptly termed ‘meritocrazy’ by one netizen. From various epic failures, it has been proven that book smart leaders have not been able to discern between classroom conditions and reality.
Take for example the recent riot where the COI has revealed huge missteps in the police handling of a very volatile situation. Our scholars do impress with tonnes of protocols but they pertain only to classroom situations. What could have gone wrong, went wrong.
The same goes for the two security breaches within two months at the Woodlands Checkpoint. These are systemic, not individual or hardware, failures. An organisation is as good as its leader. Failures stem from the leaders selected under our unique system of ‘meritocrazy’. In order to prevent future failures, ‘meritocrazy’ should be discarded because:
– Meritocrazy in our context is a ‘scholar parachutist’ system which most see as unfair and leaders are seldom respected as a result. Regardless of the lack of relevant experience, the scholar will always receive the biggest carrot. Other employees who may be more passionate about the job and have committed their best years to the organisation are left to stagnate.
– Meritocrazy produces leaders whose priority is lower costs and will outsource important functions whenever possible. Whether an employee is experienced, competent or trained is ignored. Some of the roles of prison officers, police officers, ICA officers, LTA officers, etc have been outsourced. link
– Meritocrazy rewards those at the top disproportionately and incurs a ‘top heavy’ financial cost. Leaders command exorbitant salaries by depressing salaries at the middle/lower end through outsourcing the work of the rank and file employees. One should not expect there to be no disgruntled employees.
– Meritocrazy discourages capable and experienced employees from giving their best.
– Meritocrazy produces leaders who look good on paper. Leaders will always look good because the system seldom hold them accountable in the absence of a political backlash.
– Meritocrazy produces book smart leaders who have not been exposed to the ‘street’ and will fail society because they implement policies based on classroom scenarios instead of reality eg housing, public transportation, etc. As have been proven, leaders only want to do the talking while expecting citizens to do the walking.
It’s not that the fault lines of such a system are unclear to the government. The elites only want to perpetuate their hold on power and ‘meritocrazy’ is the easiest way to do so. How? The elites have ample resources to provide their children with the best tutors, sending them to the best schools which are assigned highly qualified teachers and have better facilities. Their children become elites, holding leadership positions and the cycle perpetuates itself.
Such a system has worked wonders for the elites at the expense of citizens. Despite clear evidence of a broken system, the elites are in no rush to fix it.