The former head of Singapore’s civil service, Peter Ho, received the country’s top award last week.

Ho, who was Head of Civil Service from 2005 until he retired in 2010, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order at the National Day Awards 2016.

He now serves as Chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. He is also Senior Advisor to the Centre for Strategic Futures and Senior Fellow at the Civil Service College.

His 34-year career in the civil service included Permanent Secretary for foreign affairs, national security and intelligence coordination, special duties in the Prime Minister’s Office, and defence.

During his public service career, he drove a whole-of-government approach to address complex and fast-changing known as “wicked problems” – such as ageing population, international terrorism and climate change.

These problems are complex because they don’t have a clear cause and “many potential stakeholders in the problem”, he has told GovInsider. Agencies cannot act independently to address such challenges, he said. “We have moved further down the road in terms of a whole-of-government approach because we understand the importance of tackling these complex and wicked problems in a holistic way,” he said.

He oversaw the setting up of the National Security Coordination Secretariat in the Prime Minister’s Office to address international terrorism, and helped set up the Centre for Strategic Futures.

He also led a series of policy reviews in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to improve its response to the international strategic environment, according to the Straits Times.

“If you want to make big improvements, you cannot be timid… You must be daring enough to try new things out, and you manage the risks”, he told the newspaper.

Image by Su-May, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Also read: Interview with Peter Ho, former head of Civil Service