Our president and theirs

. . . is the topic of my latest Trade Tripper column in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld. Excerpts:

"It must be emphasized that we should treat these academic credentials and past experiences as the minimum requirements. On top of that, we need a leader who has integrity, judgment, genuine love of country, and a clear idea of where he wants to lead this country to.

It’s up to the voters of today if they want to settle for less and continue the practice of the past by voting for the least common denominator. Or take the time and effort to look for somebody we can rightly trust the presidency with.

It’s quite true, really: people get the leaders they deserve. If we compromise or set low standards or (worse) are corrupt, then we shouldn’t complain if those are the characteristics of the leaders we get."

Of course there's the lie going around nowadays that credentials and achievements and experience doesn't matter. Which is ridiculous. For how else would we know if that person can achieve the promises he gives if it weren't for the indications that his background brings? If the presidents of academic and executive experience in the past somehow didn't live up to expectations, then our response should be is to be even more stringent and demanding in our standards and not to do away with it all together.

Besides, with today's global economy, the job just got much harder and gentlemen leaders from the 'elite' (if there is such a thing) can't realistically be expected to handle it with a mere sense of noblesse oblige as their sole qualification. If there's one thing that's quite obvious from the backgrounds of world leaders I surveyed is that one senses a long and arduous preparation for the job. They went through rigorous academic training and then a series of ministerial or executive positions (some of which involving stints with the military, which gives excellent training on organization) before landing the top job. Even men like Lee Hsien Loong, who would have been expected to be handed the job simply because he is the son of Lee Kuan Yew, actually had a perceivably methodical and purposeful training before he got the prime minister position of Singapore.

Those are the kind of people we should be looking for to fill leadership spots. Not some rich kid who happened to have his mother die and whose main outstanding trait seems to be his inoffensiveness or some articulate rich kid who happens to be the lookalike of a lead singer of a local band.

Change, real change, isn't really pretty and usually isn't nice. We need somebody we trust can get the job done and done with integrity and love of country.