“The question to ask is what lies at the root of the discontent or the disengagement between the G and the people. I am going to stick my neck out and say that it is ministerial salaries. I consider it the root of all evil. Serious. It reduces what should be a social compact into a business contract. “ – Bertha Henson
“In the early days, Lim Kim San and Goh Keng Swee worked night and day, and they were truly dedicated. I don’t know whether Lee Kuan Yew will agree but it started going downhill when we started to raise ministers’ salaries, not even pegging them to the national salary but aligning them with the top 10….When you raise ministers’ salaries to the point that they’re earning millions of dollar, every minister — no matter how much he wants to turn up and tell Hsien Loong off or whatever — will hesitate when he thinks of his million-dollar salary. Even if he wants to do it, his wife will stop him.” –– ex-top civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow
“If the new benchmark is accepted by the Government, it would continue to send the message, to potential political office holders and the people of Singapore alike, that top pay is the benchmark by which the importance of the office is to be judged, and that the value of political office can, in the final analysis, be monetized. It cannot be? Not even at the highest income levels. Political service is a calling; it is a privilege accorded by the electorate to serve the largest number of our fellow Singaporeans. It is primarily a privilege, not primarily a burden or sacrifice. The principle of political service should come first and not be treated as a discount factor.”– Opposition MP Chen Show Mao
“You could argue that the Taiwanese government is corrupt; but then we could say that all we have done in Singapore is to legalise corruption through those incredibly large salaries.” – Clement wee
“What kind of values the nation’s policies have cultivated if the government is unable to find 25 good men and women, to serve as Ministers and Permanent Secretaries, out of our population of five million? – Zaqy Mohamad
‘The lure of personal prestige and monetary gain can produce a dangerously intelligent and self-interested class of political elites who will readily compromise the national interest to satisfy their own needs,’ – Associate Professor Kenneth Paul Tan from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in a 2008 article.
“High pay would not satisfy a minister bent on being corrupt. It would ‘make him only more greedy for more money’ – Former long time opposition leader Chiam See Tong
“With such inflated figures, it is understandable why the local government controlled media have taken pains to exclude mention of actual numbers for the world to see. The numbers would be too glaring and no amount of window dressing or creative writing could have reconciled these numbers with a sane figure and restored credibility.” – Mellanie Hewlitt “Singapore Ministers Pay, Legitimised Corruption“. Askmelah notes the salaries of ministers is still a closely guarded secret even after the recent pay revision* .
* [Updated 18 Feb 2012: “Budget shows new ministerial salaries ST 18Feb2012” will give you a glimpse of how much our ministers are paid with the revised pays.]
Askmelah’s favorite quote:
“extraordinary pay for extra ordinary pple with extra ordinary abilities, yes. I can accept that.
extraordinary pay for mediocre pple…. No.
look at out public transport MRT.. look at the flooding.. look at mas selamat escape, look at temasek losses, look at the over spent budget at some yog.. look at the case of body in the water tank…. Are these pple displaying extraordinary abilities..? Aren’t they drawing extraordinary salaries..?
Apparently.. judgement for “extraordinary” ability were flawed by someone?
Pay good price for good stuff.. ok.. over paying for low quality.. not acceptable.”
Here are two such examples:
- ‘CPIB probe pivotal in demonstrating trustworthiness of gov’t’
- Complacency is Singapore’s worst enemy
Askmelah also wonders are politicians “talents”? they aren’t as smart as the professors, they aren’t as shrewd as the businessmen, they aren’t as driven as the top CEOs, they don’t take as much risks as the entrepreneurs. They aren’t saints that do not make mistakes. They must want to do it because it is a calling, they must be able emphathise with the masses (remember the infamous remark “Do you want 3 meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?“) and lastly see being politicians as a calling above all! If all other countries, rich or poor, do not require million dollars salary, I do not see why Singapore has to be the exception. That will be how you can see a person’s true character, not by preventing them from corruption by offering such high salaries. It is a distortion, not a solution. That’s how you differentiate a Joseph Estrada from the Aquinos.
Being a politicians is like being a social worker, if I may draw an analogy. It is a calling, you derive the immense satisfaction from your work. If you want to have a good pay, you are in the wrong trade (that is why some social workers who treat their jobs as a mean to pay their bills are so miserable). Likewise, politicians should not expect to be paid like the CEOs, if the ministers expect that, he or she should not be a politician then. In any society and in any era, there will always be a group of talented, willing and dedicated people who are willing to serve their countries. Singapore will not be and never will be an exception, no matter how hard the Singapore Government try to convince us- the election outcome is just the beginning. The rise and fall of a country is an unstoppable trend that just keep repeating itself no matter how hard we try to prevent it. The first emperor of China, QinShiHuang, thought that he was unstoppable and he was able to change the course of history, the Kingdom fell spectacularly after his death. Is LKY more capable or smarter than the almiighty QinShiHuang? I do not think so, not even remotely close.
Extract a statement of Lee Kuan Yew from Yahoo! News dated 19 Jan 2012:
In a letter sent to the media on Thursday evening, Lee said that because all families want to ensure the best for their children and to allow them to go to good universities, he and his government had to be “pragmatic”, paying “competitive salaries in order to have a continuous stream of high calibre people to become MPs (members of parliament) and then ministers”. Otherwise, Singapore would quickly transform from a little red dot to become a “little black spot”. [Askmelah’s Note: As a Singaporean commented: “We don’t need top scholars, brigadiers, generals, top senior servants or top surgeons to serve and lead this country. “It’s better for Singapore that they stay put and excel in their own profession.”This city, she added, would be better led by true passionate selfless people willing to serve the public. And I agree, the few opposition MPs such as Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim and Chen Show Mao are just tips of the iceberg of willing, able and committed individuals that have stepped forward despite the mounting challenge, stigma and not paid (except the MP’s pay). PAP ministers, that is the benchmark for you to beat!
Here is one such example from Taiwan politician’s sacrifice which really the sets the bar for our politicians:
“A government friend told me that (Simon) Chang’s decision to ‘jump into the fire pit‘ is highly commendable, because he is not only forgoing a much bigger paycheque at Google, but also taking up the difficult task of masterplanning IT and revamping the sector.” – futuregov.asia]
[Updated 30 Apr 2012: In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria at the World Economic Forum, Lee Hsien Loong in response to the question of the ministerial salaries said this and I quote: “Our reasons for paying people well… paying people properly… are well-established. You must pay commensurate with the quality of the person to do that job. The job is vital because if you make a wrong decision, there are implications for policy. You put a wrong man in, that’s a disaster. For the man coming into politics, he must do calculations as to the implications for his family, his wife and children. But for the man in the street making a few thousand a month, a million dollars, two million dollars is an incomprehensible sum. He cannot wrap his mind around it, and so it became an issue in the election.”
Askmelah is wondering why there are huge uproars and unhappiness with the recent spats of incidents such as train breakdowns, soaring property prices, corrupted officials under probe, high inflations and widening income gaps despite us paying the highest public salaries and we seem to be doing worse off than other similar economies such as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea. Even Thailand and Malaysia people seem to have less outages and complaints than Singaporeans. This looks like the classic case of over-promise and underdeliver, no less from the man who is the highest paid PM in the world. ]
Public service is not a sacrifice; it is not a burden or imposition. Public service should be a calling; it is an honour and a privilege. It is something to be proud of, not something to bemoan and begrudge.
And running a country is a political undertaking different from running a company, which is why Singaporeans reject the constant comparisons to private-sector jobs.
While the majority of Singaporeans say they approve of the depth of the proposed cuts to ministerial pay, a straw poll of 100 Singaporeans found that many still feel that the absolute quantum of the salaries – the proposed S$1.1 million annual salary for an entry-level minister – is too high.
the most important question we should ask ourselves is: Do we need exorbitant salaries to negate moral hazard? And that would be the pivot of our society.
MANY of our most able statesmen were from academia, such as Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, Professor Tommy Koh and Professor S Jayakumar. As professors, would they command the salaries of the top 1,000 earners here?
Does that mean professors are not some of the smartest, most capable persons in our population? There is, therefore, no basis for using pay as a measure of talent.
Sixty per cent of our current Cabinet ministers were career civil servants before joining politics. Only Mr Gan Kim Yong has served as chief executive officer in the private sector. (Dr Vivian Balakrishnan was CEO of the Singapore General Hospital.) – [ Askmelah’s Note: both are from GLCs or organsiations related to Government, not the private-private sector using Askmelah’s definition. ]
Former ministers who left Cabinet last year are now not in any executive role in the private sector. Is it, therefore, appropriate to compare ministers to CEOs?
one of the reasons people get incensed about high ministerial pay is that they see a distortion of values among some of our elite, or even in the general population, who equate success with how much money one has.
There is a fundamental difference between the private and public sectors. In the former, profits are pursued at all costs, often even at the cost of customer service. But in public service, “customer” welfare should come first……Many of our recent problems required mainly common sense and some foresight to prevent.
Any talent drawn from the private sector should keep in mind that any pay cut is more than compensated for by the power to determine the lives of an entire nation and by the love and respect of the people he/she sincerely serves. So we should not be pegging ministerial pay to the private sector but to public officials in other countries.
Hopefully, after the pay reduction, bright talents with the heart to serve the people will come forward and take up political positions.
If we need to pay them in line with their private sector income for them to switch over, it is better they remain where they are.
( “I think that despite the high salaries ministers could earn pre-revision, we still could not attract enough talents from the private sector. One can count less than five ministers with private sector experience and the rest are drawn mostly from the army, navy and civil service. This is bad for Singapore as if we get all the ministers from the same corporate setting, we are in danger of having groupthink and more seriously a lack of real tangible solutions for the many problems our country face right now. Imagine if we can’t resolve the longstanding third-world flooding problem in Orchard Road, what chance does we have when it comes to real serious issues such as high unemployment rate among others?” – Gilbert Goh)
Singapore has and needs good government. An objective assessment would go a long way to restoring goodwill.
“I had some ground to believe that my family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though I experienced a drop in my income. … If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering political office,” she (Grace Fu) wrote.
Some netizens termed her “elitist”, while others accused her of focusing on pay instead of public service. For example, Ng Tiong Gee, who felt the post was “inappropriate”, wrote on Ms Fu’s page: “Even with a pay cut, a salary of more than a million dollars is still a very big amount by any yardstick.”
Askmelah’s Note: No “talent” complained when they got a sudden huge jump in salary when they were made ministers prior to the pay revision. As ex-President Nathan said: “I didn’t ask for it. That was the rate for the job, that’s what I accepted. You don’t like the rate, I can’t help it.” How ironic is that considering we term these people “talents” who are no different from many of us mere mortals in terms of thinking, where is the morale courage and sacrifice spirit as one will expect of them? For people like Grace Fu, may be, just may be, she is not the kind of leaders that we want to have in the cabinet, Period!
PAP MP Zaqy Mohamad said he was concerned that there is too much emphasis placed on justifying whether the proposed new salaries will be able to attract top talents.
He reiterated his point made in 2007 during a similar salary debate, questioning the kind of values the nation’s policies have cultivated if the government is unable to find “25 good men and women, to serve as Ministers and Permanent Secretaries, out of our population of five million”.
- Ministerial pay review report misunderstood, says committee
- Stop tying pay to performance – The evidence is overwhelming – it does not work
- Insight: What price a minister? 42 years of controversy
- Where Ee and PAP Failed
- Pay,bonuses: What exactly a minister gets (The Straits Times, 14 Jan 2012)
- “Singapore Ministers Pay, Legitimised Corruption“
- Salary For President Increases, AGAIN!
Does money really buy clean government?
I REFER to the commentary “Why Singapore has the cleanest government money can buy” (Jan 26), whose opening thrust is that “paying top salaries to leaders and ministers … can make government more efficient and economies more vibrant”.
This is not inherently incredible or unreasonable; the problem is that the rest of the article fails to substantiate it.
The Bloomberg editorial attempted to support the claim by first highlighting that Transparency International rankings and Worldwide Governance Indicators rate Singapore as highly non-corrupt and well-governed.
Notwithstanding that this could be cherry-picking, a check reveals that the other nations ranked around Singapore in the two reports pay their Prime Ministers and ministers a fraction of what we pay ours even after the recent pay cuts.
Using the same examples, it is clear that there is a lack of correlation, much less causation, between high salaries for ministers and corruption/good governance.
The editorial then discussed Cambodia, China and Japan and linked the low salaries of public officials in those countries to various instances of corruption – a more acute fallacy.
To justify high salaries for ministers, the editorial cited mainly examples of poor pay for low- to mid-level civil servants.
It may be true that Singapore has a reasonably corruption-free, efficient government and civil service, but the article has failed to demonstrate that money is what buys you clean government.
A good summary by Roy Ngerng in his 6 Sep 2014 blog post on the passionate speech by the opposition MPs which sadly was not highlighted prominently by the local newspaper:
31 October 1994:
Mr Chiam See Tong (Potong Pasir): Sir, President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”. Today, we are in Parliament for exactly the opposite reason. The Ministers are not telling Singaporeans what they can do for them but are asking Singaporeans to pay them more money. It is not that long ago in this House, in January this year, that Ministers’ salaries were revised upwards to about $64,000 per month and the Prime Minister’s salary to about $96,000 per month. With that kind of salaries, most Singaporeans thought that the Prime Minister and the Ministers were already overpaid but apparently they thought otherwise. Now the Prime Minister and the Ministers want even more pay. Why do the Ministers want so much money for? People are already saying that to be appointed a Minister is like touching a lottery.
If we compare our Ministers’ salaries with those of the other developed countries listed in the table, which I have instructed the Clerk to distribute to Members, you will note that our Ministers earn about 2 1/2 times more than the President of the USA, 3 1/2 times more than the Australian Prime Minister, five times more than the Canadian Prime Minister, four times more than the Prime Minister of England, and nearly five times more than that of the Prime Minister of Sweden. If the Prime Ministers of those advanced countries can live on 1/5 to 1/4 of our Ministers’ salaries, why should our Ministers ask for more pay
How can our Ministers justify their salaries when we take the American President’s salary as a yardstick? The President of the USA is the Chief Executive of the country and is responsible for about 250 million people. Whereas a Minister in Singapore is not the Chief Executive of the country and there are only about 3 million people in Singapore. Can we say that our Ministers shoulder more responsibility than that of the President of the USA, or they do more work? Surely not. Whatever way we look at it, it is just not right to pay our Ministers so much more than that of the President of the USA.
The White Paper says that Singapore needs to pay our Ministers high salaries to attract competent men, to compensate them for the loss of their privacy and to prevent them from becoming corrupt. These reasons are faulty.
I do not believe that there are not enough competent men in Singapore who can qualify to be Ministers. The true position is that there are many good men out there who are of ministerial calibre. It is just that the PAP is unwilling to pick them for reasons of their own.
The Government could do the same by inviting good professionals with a record of integrity to become Ministers. Most professionals would be highly flattered and honoured when invited to become Ministers and would probably accept the invitation. I would think that most of them may not want to be Ministers for life, that is, until retirement due to old age but would certainly not mind doing a two term or two-and-a-half term stint.
In regard to the selection of Ministers, the Government should open its doors wider, as it did in the case of the selection of Judges and all the Ministerial posts would be quickly filled, instead of the situation now where some of the Ministers are made to take care of two Ministries.
As for corruption, I think the Government, after nearly 30 years in power, is now experienced enough, especially after the unfortunate appointment of past corrupt Ministers, like Tan Kia Gan, Wee Toon Boon and the late Teh Cheang Wan, not to appoint anyone who has the propensity to be corrupt. In any event, financial incentives cannot prevent a Minister from being corrupt. If a Minister is intent on being corrupt, the hefty salary will not satisfy him. It will make him only more greedy for more money. The high salary paid to him will allow him to enjoy a high standard of living, such as living in a nice house and purchase expensive cars which can be a veil of his ill-gotten money, if he were to be corrupt. So the argument that you pay a Minister well will prevent him to be corrupt is quite fallacious.
I am not saying that the Government should pay Ministers peanuts, neither am I advocating exorbitant salaries to make them millionaires once they are appointed.
I still believe that political leadership is a calling. Political leadership posts should not be turned into lucrative jobs. By turning those posts into lucrative jobs, we are not going to attract people motivated by a calling but people who are attracted to politics because of money.
The idea of setting benchmarks for Ministers’ salaries based on the top four highest private sector earnings in banking and amongst accountants, engineers, lawyers, CEOs of manufacturing companies and multi-national companies is objectionable. In principle, it is wrong. Ministers must at intervals of time come back to Parliament to ask for and justify their pay increases and also for the pay they are receiving. This principle of accountability of the Ministers in respect of their salaries must never be taken away. The day it is taken away, the seeds of corruption would have been sown.
How can we know for sure that once a benchmark, as proposed, has been set, the Ministers will not engineer to make sure that they get hefty pay increases every year by encouraging the private sector to increase the pay of its CEOs? After all, many of the big companies such as privatised Telecom and SIA are Government controlled. Also, many of the big manufacturing companies, banks and multi-nationals have close connections with the Government, as they can be influenced. If Ministers believe generally that they deserve pay increases and can justify them, what is there to be embarrassed or feel uncomfortable about. They should not be afraid to come to Parliament to ask for those pay increases. And if Ministers feel that it is not proper for them to canvass for their own pay increases which, in my view, is indeed not proper for Ministers to be asking for their own pay increases, they could get Government MPs or, even better still, get Backbenchers to do it for them.
Another way is to get an independent committee, like the National Wages Council, which determines workers’ wages, to study and recommend from time to time how much Ministers’ salary increases should be. Anyway, I think it is improper for Ministers to be asking for salary scales which would make them millionaires more than two times over in one term of office.
Ministers promote Asian values and Confucian teachings. Perhaps the Ministers in their more sombre moments, should take notice that Confucian teachings hold up yao and shan as models for other rulers to follow. They were unselfish and public spirited and believed that the position of the ruler should not be a source of wealth and personal benefit. I do not recommend that Ministers make big personal sacrifices like the Confucian models, neither do I advocate hefty pay increases as recommended in the White Paper.
What I am recommending is based on the principle that the Ministers’ job is a calling. It is a public service and cannot be anything else. If the Minister’s post is going to be another highly paid job, how can Ministers have the moral authority to lead the country? How can our Ministers be role models? How can they preach against materialism and warn of the decay of society once it wallows in materialism? The founders of modern Singapore preached against materialism. They called on the people to practise thrift, to sacrifice and to do hard work. Mr Lee Kuan Yew himself took a pay cut. That may have been the catalyst to Singapore’s success.
1 November 1994:
Mr Low Thia Khiang (Hougang)(In Mandarin): Mr Speaker, Sir, when I heard the Prime Minister’s speech in this House yesterday, I was very shocked. It seems like the future of our country will be determined by how much salary we give to our Ministers and top civil servants.
The logic of the Prime Minister is that the higher the pay the better we can attract the top talents to govern the country and there will be continuous growth in the economy, more safeguards to the people. Otherwise, the future of the country will be bleak.
He went on to point out that corrupt practices among politicians in the United Kingdom was due to their salaries being too low. The Prime Minister also said that the most important question is what kind of people we want to rule the country. This is indeed a question worth considering.
On this question, my intuitive reaction is that I do not want people who look to money to run the country. These people will be weighing their losses and gains in terms of money and the policy they embrace will surely be profit-oriented. Even if it results in huge economic growth year after year, and the Government coffer greatly enriched, the livelihood of the people need not necessarily be improved because the formulation and results of their policies will be determined purely from the angle of economic benefits only.
If the Prime Minister is presenting this White Paper to set a benchmark for the Ministers’ salaries based on the top earners in the private sector simply because the people with potential to be Ministers whom he contacted were not prepared to come forward to serve the nation due to the salaries being not sufficiently attractive, then I would suggest that he look again for some others who have the vision and are prepared to dedicate themselves to the nation.
If, after so many years of nation building, we cannot cultivate some talented people with dedication to serve the country, then I must say with great regret that our country is a failure.
If our country is facing this kind of problem today, the elites among our younger generation now would only look at money, then the PAP Government should make an overall review on whether their philosophy of running the country is out of balance, and whether it has been putting too much emphasis on utilitarianism and elitism.
The ancient Chinese philosopher Laotze said, “Do not esteem the wise so as to prevent strife among the people. Do not value the scarce goods so as to prevent robbery. Do not make desire visible so as not to disturb the minds of the people.” Of course, we are not saying that we should not value the wise. What we are saying is that we should not over-emphasize elitism and materialism so that the desire of the people becomes stronger and stronger, resulting in their being obsessed with the desire for gain.
The Prime Minister also mentioned about corruption in society. Corruption arises because of greed and because of greed they become corrupted and polluted. So if we over-emphasise money and the society becomes such that so long as you have money you can call the shots, then no matter how much you pay them, they will be asking for even more. I think the complexity of this matter is far beyond the question of salary, as suggested by the Prime Minister. It is not that simple!
Mr Speaker, Sir, as a matter of fact, the sacrifice made by those who enter politics and serve the people cannot be measured by money alone. Some former Presidents of the United States of America were assassinated. Even President Clinton has also faced an attempt made on his life. This is a matter of life and death, not something which can be compensated by salary. So to debate on how to reduce the sacrifices of people who enter politics by monetary compensation is, by itself, an insult to the politicians and statesmen. We should adhere to the principle that so long as the Minister can maintain a comfortable lifestyle, with adequate safeguards for his present living and life after retirement, it would be sufficient to keep him working with peace in mind.
Since the Government is insisting on measuring in the light of utilitarianism, and has published the White Paper to support its argument, do allow me to present my views on the contents of the White Paper.
First of all, let me look at the question whether it is equitable to peg the Minister’s pay with that of the private sector. The White Paper suggested taking the average income from six selected professions as the benchmark for the Ministers’ salaries. This figure is $1.217 million. This is based on the average income from the six professions in 1992.
The present salary of Ministers is more than $60,000 per month, and it will be further increased after it is pegged with the private sector. According to the annual report of the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS), 141 residents of Singapore had income of more than one million dollars in 1992. But in 1993, some 394 people had income of more than $5 million.
So if we take these top four income earners in the six professions as the benchmark for the Ministers and top civil servants’ salaries, and the top earners’s income keeps on increasing substantially, then the salaries of the Ministers and top civil servants will be raised correspondingly. I fear that in future the salaries of Ministers and top civil servants will become a heavy burden to Singapore.
On the other hand, according to the 1990 Population Census, more than 70% of our workforce earn less than $1,500. So if you use the income of just a handful of super-high income earners as the benchmark, and ignoring the great disparity among the incomes of the people of Singapore in general, is it reasonable?
Secondly, looking at the nature of work and the motivation, the objective of the private sector is to make money. If an employee can make so much money for his company, he deserves to be paid a salary in accordance with his contribution. From a personal point of view, this is reasonable and just, seemly and fitting. But the motivation of the Ministers and the top civil servants is to serve the people. The nature of their work is to run the country with the power of the Government, and it is their job to run the country well. Just because the economy has been booming, the private sector has been reaping in huge profits, and their employees are getting high salaries, the Government wants to peg the Ministers’ salaries to the private sector. Do not tell me that the Government is suffering from the politics of envy Ž envious of other people’s high salaries.
With so much emphasis on the Administrative Service and the huge increase in the salaries of the top Administrative Officers, it seems that in future, the formulation and implementation of Government policies will rely substantially on these senior and superscale civil servants, and the Ministers will have these highly paid Administrative Officers to work for them, and their workload will therefore be reduced considerably. Why then are the Ministers getting a pay rise?
In order to show that they are “worth more than what they are paid” as mentioned by a Member in this House, these administrative elites sitting in the ivory tower will think of ways and means to make more profits for the Government. Yes, this will of course create more wealth for the country, but what will happen to the livelihood of the people?
Thirdly, work security. In Singapore, so long as the civil servants and Ministers do not make a serious mistake, their jobs can be said to be an “iron rice bowl”. With the huge pay rises in recent years, this “iron rice bowl” has become a “golden rice bowl”. This golden rice bowl, even in spite of an economic downturn, will be strong and stable, with no fear of being broken.
For instance, in 1985, when we were facing recession, many private sector employees were retrenched. They were completely helpless. But the Ministers and civil servants continued to get the same pay and they were enjoying themselves in the recession. Furthermore, so long as the Ministers have completed 10 years’ service, they will get a handsome pension for their retirement. The employees in the private sector will have to work until 60 years of age before they can retire, and after that they have to fend for themselves.
According to the World Bank report, in Japan, and some successful economics in Asia, including Singapore, when a successful official retires, he will get a lot of rewards, much more than their salaries, benefits and allowances.
In most cases, our Ministers and top civil servants, after retirement, will be invited to take up richly-paid positions in the public or private sector. As such, our Ministers and top civil servants enjoy certain security even after their retirement.
The White Paper makes no mention of the special status and safeguards enjoyed by top civil servants and the Ministers, nor any objective comparison of the nature and risk of their job with that in the private sector, but simply uses the average income of a handful of top earners in the private sector as the benchmark for the Ministers’ salaries. This, I feel, is an attempt to hoodwink the people. I do not think we should accept this kind of rash benchmarking.
If we want to set standards and benchmarking for top civil servants and Ministers, then it should be comparing like with like. We should compare ourselves with countries like Switzerland, etc, according to the land area, the population size, the income of the people, the economic growth and the complexity of politics. We must compare also with the pay given to the Ministers and top civil servants in other countries and then adjust them according to the circumstances of Singapore to fix this kind of benchmark.
The White Paper also mentions that in some countries, a larger part of their ministers’ salary is camouflaged by non-monetary rewards such as free housing, cars, expense account, overseas holidays, etc.
The PAP Government has all along been well-known for its effective use of statistics. They should have no difficulty evaluating the worth of these hidden perks in terms of cash value. Why does not the PAP Government do that? Why should you compare chickens with ducks? This is very unconvincing!
Mr Speaker, Sir, here I would like to talk about the basic argument of the White Paper “Competitive Salaries for Competent and Honest Government” and, that is, what the Lianhe Zaobao described as “High pay to keep the worthy and good remuneration to keep the honest”.
First of all, when we describe someone as being “a person of virtue” or a worthy person, we refer not only to his ability and wisdom but also his integrity and superior character. So if you suggest using money to keep the worthy and encourage them to look at money for whatever thing they do, then it is an insult to the bona fide worthy person. Even for an ordinary person, money is not the only factor of consideration when you come to work. If our country is to be ruled by the so-called “worthy” people who are money-oriented, then it would be disastrous for the country and the people!
“Good remuneration to keep the honest” is also a problem. In the past, there were some cases of corruption involving our Ministers and top civil servants. Does this imply that their remuneration was not good enough? Now with this huge increase in pay, do you think the Government can assure the people of Singapore that there will be no more corruption? Then, if there are junior civil servants being found to be corrupt, will the Government consider giving them a hefty pay rise because their remuneration is not good enough?
Human desire for material gains is insatiable. Do you really believe that you can keep the talented and the honest just by giving them high salaries? How high must their salaries be to be considered enough? Using the excuse of wanting to keep the talented and the honest to give the Ministers and top civil servants hefty pay rises will certainly leave us completely bewildered!
Of course, I am not asking the Ministers and top civil servants to serve Singapore for free. We all know that in Singapore, apart from the air and the haze we are having now, nothing is for free.
Mr Speaker, Sir, with the PAP having a commanding majority in this House, of course, this salary benchmarking will be approved. In future, the problem will be treated as solved, once and for all. There will be no need to debate the Ministers’ pay. Every year, on 1st July, their salaries will automatically be increased. There is no longer any need to wait for three to five years to get a pay rise. They can have their pay rise in a grand and imposing manner along with the big bosses in the private sector. The boat will rise with the rising tide and their pockets will be full.
If the PAP Government is sincere in wanting to get the feedback from the people, and to convince the people that the salaries of the Ministers are reasonable and appropriate to the situation in our country, then they should not be acting too hastily in wanting to have the White Paper forcibly endorsed in Parliament. They should provide all the information that I mentioned above to allow the people to make some comparative studies. They should also make this an election platform for the next General Election so that the people will have the opportunity of discussing it extensively, and showing through the ballot box whether they support or reject the recommendation of the White Paper.
It pays to be silent in Parliament
By Phillip Ang
There is really no reason to be paying MPs $15,000 per month. Most MPs earn much more in their full time job and if it’s really a sacrifice, why the need to reward them with an ‘allowance’ that’s above the90th percentile?
Left to the PAP, the sky is the limit where remuneration is concerned. And that applies only to the PAP.
From the table above, an MP was getting 16.4 times ($225,000 / $13,710) his monthly ‘allowance’ in 2008. This translates into an additional 4.4 months of ‘bonus’.
But why should an MP be even getting a bonus when he was supposed to be serving?
What’s more obscene is the world was in financial turmoil during the period but MPs were totally immune.
Their collective silence has resulted in insufficient hospital beds and public housing, a poorly maintained and broken MRT system, immigration-related issues, job discrimination against citizens, etc.
In order to remain a PAP MP, one must toe the party line and merely maintain the status quo because there is no accountability anyway. The PAP system is one which entices the greedy and self-serving types. Why put in more effort when one is already paid so obscenely for a part time job to speak up on issues which don’t even affect them?
This article was first published on likedatosocanmeh.