The Meaning of public service

I wish to explain my understanding of public service. It means to serve the public, rather than for personal gains.

They are many people who are in public service. They enjoy being a teacher, nurse, policeman or a similar occupation that benefits the public. They earn an adequate salary to take care of their family and do not wish to seek a higher paying job in the private sector.

There are also many volunteers who do charitable or community work out of public service. They do not get any allowance of reimbursement for their expense, but only the satisfaction of helping people who needs their help.

This is the spirit of public service.

President’s Salary

My friend Goh Meng Seng asked me three years ago to be ready to stand for election as President. I told him that at that time that I would make a statement to donate a substantial portion of the President’s salary to charity. I cannot recall now whether it was 70% or 90% or the excess over $300,000.

There is a committee at work now that will review the salary of the President and the ministers. Whatever is the outcome of the review, I expect that the President’s salary will still be substantial and will be much more than needed for my modest lifestyle, if I were to take up this office.

I believe that the office of the President should set an example of what is meant by public service.

A New Charity

To make bigger impact, I hope that the new charity can get the support of many generous and well off people in Singapore and a matching grant from the Government. The money will be used for the following beneficiaries.

The first category would be to pay the school fees of primary and secondary students whose parents are not able to pay the fees. I heard the heart wrenching story from a mother. Her son in primary school said that his close friend was detained in school and not given the school report card until the parent come to school to pay the outstanding school fees.

Another category would be to pay the hospital fees in subsidised wards of elderly people, say above age 75, who cannot afford these fees. Although there is a Medifund scheme to serve this purpose, some elderly people do not want to be a burden to their children who do not earn enough for their own family needs.

I know that there are many charities and agencies that now provide these types of
assistance, but most of them appeared to be burdened with bureaucracy and stringent rules that have to be met before the beneficiaries can get the financial assistance.

I have some ideas about how the process can be simplified and that the beneficiaries can be helped without too much paperwork or emotional burden.

I will write more about this idea at a later date.

Trust and votes

There are some people who have said, in the Internet, that they would give their votes to the candidates who state specifically the amount that they would donate away to charity from the salary of the President. I do not intend to respond to their call and give any specific figure or guarantee.

I will only ask for the votes of Singaporeans who trust me to act honestly, fairly and in the best interest of the people.

About the Author: Mr. Tan Kin Lian started his insurance career in 1966 in the actuarial department of a local life insurance company.  He has also worked in various positions as a computer programmer, organization and methods officer and in an actuarial consulting firm.  He qualified as a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries in 1975.

He joined NTUC Income in 1977 as the chief executive officer.  During a period of 30 years, he built up the business, assets and sphere of influence.  From a base of $28 million, the total assets increased to over $17 billion as the time of his retirement on 28 February 2007.  NTUC Income is today, a leading life and general insurance co-operative in Singapore.

From 1992 to 1997, he was Chairman of the International Co-operative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF), an international organisation representing 123 insurance groups in 65 countries.

Mr Tan was conferred the Friend of Labor Award in 1978, the Public Service Medal in 1983, the Rochdale Medal Award in 1992, the Financial Personality of the Year Award in 2000, the 2001 International Management Action Award, the Public Service Star in 2004, Leading CEO Award 2005 and the Friend of I.T in 2007.

After retiring from NTUC Income, Mr. Tan founded Tan Kin Lian & Associates Pte Ltd. He also lectures as an adjunct professor in Singapore Management University.
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