Thursday, 27 October 2011

Commercialising Political Experience: Can George Yeo Turn His International And Regional Relationship Into Commercial Assets?

Former foreign minister George Yeo has been appointed senior adviser to Malaysian conglomerate Kuok Group as reported in the media.  What actually does a senior adviser do? Can his advice add value to a private business enterprise?

We don’t know yet and it is also too early to tell.  However, he has at least proved that he has some market values even without a government job.  Kuok Group may not pay him as well as the Singapore tax payers but anyway, he manages to find a job other than an offer from GLCs. In this, we have to respect him (so do Lim Hwee Hua) for stepping out the comfort zones.

Lim is different from George as she was in the finance and investment sector before joining the government. George is first a military man and then turns into a politician and minister.  

His market value seems to be in his foreign relationship.  From his facebook pages, you can see that he visited here and there and met up with foreign friends. He certainly has more experiences in international and regional development than his other PAP ministers, perhaps, even better than PM Lee.

But having knowledge and experience is one thing, providing strategy and advice is another thing.  You are some body when you are in power but another person when you are out of power.  Therefore, acting like a philosopher and providing different possibilities without implementing the selected strategy may be best matched by George’s character and intelligence.
For this, he has no executive power over his advisory and he does not need to report to shareholders of the Group.  

Business owners may or may not accept advices from their advisers. An adviser has less responsibility as compared to a minister. A minister has to shoulder the negative impact of his ministry’s policies, just like Wong Kan Seng and Mah Bao Tan. Both lost their ministerial jobs after GE2011.

But will George be happy by just giving advices to private business group?  Is this the best way out for a thinker like him?

Singapore “Al Gore” – a possibility?

George is a busy man.  I wonder how much time he has for the Kuok Group for his advisory work. Besides being a visiting scholar at NUS, he also involves and advises many foreign organisations:
- Chairing the International Advisory Panel of the Nalanda University Governing Board;
- Member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum;
- Member of the Nicolas Berggruen Institute's 21st Century Council and
- Member of the International Advisory Boards of Harvard Business School and IESE Business School.

May be a few more.

As a knowledge man, perhaps he can contribute things on East-West cultural exchanges and help to show off the soft power of Singapore. Singapore is well known for our economic success. So, why not do some things on the soft power?

George has less financial worry as Singapore tax payers have paid him well enough through the pension scheme. He should consider contributing something on the arts, cultural and values to the world.

Just like Al Gore, who lost the controversial President Election in the USA, but he keeps himself moving to another personal achievement in environment. I think George’s interest is not on business profit making and his best matched activity is some things like philosophy and thinking.

Will we see a Singapore “Al Gore” in the making?

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