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Friday, October 28, 2005

"Ministers' Pay is too high"... Really?

This post may get me into trouble with some people, but I just wanna say it. Don't worry, nothing seditious.

There are a few reasons why politics in Singapore generally does not interest me, and the most common one which I tell people is:

"Because there's simply no opposition worth voting for."

Put it this way. Between a respectable-looking minister and a guy hawking propaganda in front of Centrepoint shouting anti-govt slogans.......... It's simply not very convincing of your political ability, is all.

The one opposition candidate that got my vote [not literally] is Chiam See Tong of Potong Pasir. Here was a man who seemed generally interested in the welfare of the residents under his care, and didn't see the need to resort to hawker-like behaviour in order to boost his relationship with his voters.

The reason why I've turned this way is because of an email I recently received.

The email railed a familiar complaint, that of ministerial salaries, that they were too high. Among some of the statistics they mailed to me were:

Annual salaries of heads of government:

1. Singapore Prime Minister US$1,100,000 (S$1,958,000) a year

2. United States of America President: US$200,000

3. United Kingdom Prime Minister: US$170,556

4. Australia Prime Minister: US$137,060

Annual salaries of heads of government:

1. Singapore Minister: US$819,124

2. UK Minister: US$146,299

3. US Cabinet Secretary: US$157,000

(Source: Asian Wall Street Journal 10 Jul 2000)

And then the crunch:


What these ministers earns in just ONE MONTH exceeds the ANNUAL TAKE HOME
salary of 80% of Singapore's income earning population."

Upon first read, you might feel scandalized, or at least a bit kek, like I did, especially if you're one of those Singaporeans earning less than 100,000 a month. BUT is there something wrong with the way the numbers have been displayed?

The most glaring omission of course, is that it is NOT stated whether the President of the United States earns US$200,000 a year, or a month, but I'm assuming the authors mean a year. I don't believe that they feel we are that stupid.

Secondly, the ministers earn a salary that is more than the yearly salary of most Singaporeans. SO WHAT??? That's totally keeping in terms with economical concepts. If you're a degree holder, do you expect to have the same take home pay as an A level holder? NO, YOU BLOODY WELL DON'T. That's because of all the hard work and sweat that you and your parents went through to bring you through Uni. In fact, you EXPECT to earn more simply because you have been through a better education than other A level holders.

It's funny how most people will agree with the above analogy, but then when it comes to ministers' salaries, they suddenly get their chicken feathers all in a ruffle.

Look at it this way: Just how many people have the ability and the pure guts to go into office? Not many, it seems, considering that most Singaporeans are politically apathetic, and both opposition parties and the PAP are having trouble recruiting members for their ranks. So if we don't have the guts to go try a hand at making this place better, then don't scream "Unfair!" at those who DO have the guts to do so. There's not much admiration to be had for a person who doesn't go ahead to solve his problems, and can only sit in the kopitiams and lament his fate.

Thirdly, the ministers earn this salary in a country that's relatively safe, peaceful, has a decent transportation system, a good education system that ensures every child has a chance at a basic education, and where the vast majority of its citizens has a roof over their heads.

The US president earns his pay in a country that has a high crime rate, poverty rate, illiteracy rate, is in a perpetual state of deficit, is obsessed with a Middle eastern country, is extremely on ridding the world of terrorists, whether the rest of the world asked for its advice or not, and yet is terribly hesitant as to whether it should give aid to its own citizens in times of natural disasters.

You tell me whether you're willing to pay the lower price. If you want cheap, you get cheap.

Thirdly, and positively the one that irks me most about that email, is the lack of balanced information.

The email states that this high income level will cause "Singaporeans continue to see their incomes being pulverised. Bankruptcies multiply and the increase in the number of homeless continue unabated. Social and family problems such as divorces, mental
breakdowns, and suicides skyrocket as a result."

So tell me. Just how pulverized are our incomes? How many bankruptcies are there? [maybe let's discount the ones due to credit card debt or poor financial knowledge] How many homeless are there? How many social problems?

This is the huge flaw in the mail. That while they seemingly have a lot of information to support their stand, there is none whatsoever to show that there may be flaws.

As I read on, I realised that all they had to rave about was money, money, money. The one and only main point in that email was that "Ministerial salaries are obscenely high!" And so what if they achieve their aims? So what if we do reduce ministerial salaries? So what if we become like that beacon of democracy and good political practices, the United States?

This is what irks me most. It is not a balanced argument. It is simply one prejudiced viewpoint and the numbers are simply the twitching of statistics to suit their purposes. Which makes them no different from any other political party in Singapore, or perhaps even the world.

I'm not a supporter of the PAP, even if I'm a civil servant. There are some things about the way they run Singapore that I don't like, and there are a low of things I feel can be improved.

BUT at the same time, I don't like the way that some people force change to happen. This kind of subverted email is not the way. If you want me to become more politically interested in the runnings of our country, that I need more than this. I need a stable, balanced argument, with solid facts to back it up. I need to see that while you have a strong viewpoint, you are also willing to admit the flaws in it at the same time.

In other words, I need a more politically mature view. THEN will I be more interested in our politics.


Anonymous said...

Just my thoughts....If you really think about it, there's a lot of things wrong with their pay, especially when it's tagged to the pay of CEO in the private sector.

How many of them can qualify to become a CEO of an MNC (if its not a GLC)? I very much doubt it.
Why not pegged their pay to the G7? Too low?
How many people are they are governing compared to the US and other countries
4 million compared to....? And what civil liberties do these people have that we Singaporens don't demonstration? Are we being short-charged in this department? Even "white elephants",
"documentary films", "a 4 person assembly",will cause Mr. Policeman come down hard on you.

Would they do a good job, say , in Indonesia, cos running a small island and an archipelago is a totally different thing.Social engineering and control is easier on a small island.

I thought politics is a calling. If you want to make money, just like your parents ask you to, please join the private sector.

Is there really a level playing field for politics in Singapore? Why all the gerrymandering?

Yes. Our income are pulverised. There are homeless, they are social problems.

Anyway, how come we still cannot take out our CPF as a lump sum when we retire? Why much it be given to us bit by bit? Is there something to hide or fear? Are we still to e treated like a child even after retirement, given monthly allowances from our own money!?

I think as Singaporean we deserve a better system, PAP or otherwise.

I think too many decisions are made for the good of the economy, with little thought on the social impact.

Again, it's just my thots and I think it's a bit too long....Anyway. Cheers!

Aki Tan said...

A few hours after I posted that, and already I have an objection. Must be a new record on my blog. :p

You missed the point of my post, though, which was NOT to comment on govt policy, but rather to highlight the discrepancies in some of the arguments of the opposition [or rather, just in that email]

As I said, YES, there are things I do not like about the govt, but if you don't like it, then this is not the way to convince people that this is the wrong way. My main grudge against the email was the glaring holes in it, and the way it was so biased, it just about lost all credibility for me.

YES, we need an opposition. YES we need devil's advocates, but NO, this is not how you're going to convince me that you have a valid case. If you were to present to me the information in a more credible manner, then yes, I would consider your arguments carefully. But I felt that the way in which the email was drafted did not reflect a careful and thoughtful argument. Which is why I cannot accept it.

If we want to see more changes in our government, then perhaps the way to go about doing it is to have a credible opposition for one. But not through propaganda. In that way, we would become worse than the govt we are supposed to be so against.

Thomas Loh said...

Are our ministers and MPs worth their salary.


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