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An “extraordinary” government?

By Zyberzitizen

Eversince the issue of ministers salary emerged recently, the PAP government has been taking great pains to let Singaporeans know how “extraordinary” they are. This is not unexpected, of course. How else would they justify their highest-in-the-world salary, right?

It is getting to the point of making us nauseous – and sick in the stomach.

Here are some quotes from the horses’ mouths, so to speak. (Bold emphasis are mine):

Teo Chee Hean:

“The government is a special governmentSingapore is helped along by a first-class, excellent, efficient, uncorrupted public service.” (CNA)

Irene Ng:

Singapore is governed by extraordinary men willing to make personal sacrifices” (CNA)

Lee Hsien Loong:

“He stressed that the cost to Singapore of having the wrong team of leaders is incalculable.” (CNA)

Lee Hsien Loong:

"Singaporeans know we have done the right thing. The participants agree, too, and nobody alleges any hanky panky. There are proper procedures and due diligence. Who else can do that in the world?” (CNA)

Lee Hsien Loong:

"They are most impressed by how we have maintained the vigour and quality of our government, without becoming complacent after so many years in power. They want to learn how our system has stayed clean, and our ministers and officials honest." (AsiaOne)

Yaacob Ibrahim:

“Frankly speaking, you cannot find another civil service quite like it. It’s an ecosystem. ... Look at other countries — how the civil service is corrupt, inept, inefficient. Ours is on the ball. They get the job done.” (CNA)

Lee Kuan Yew:

“To make the transformation from what we were in 1959 or 1965, to what we are requires an extraordinary government with extraordinary government officers to support it.” (AsiaOne)

Lee Kuan Yew:

“That is why Singapore needed an extraordinary government, filled with top talent who will ensure the system remains efficient and the country prosperous.” (Straits Times, 23 April, 2007, “Extraordinary govt, talent keep S’pore ahead, says MM”)

So, we have a “special government”, an “extraordinary government”, a “clean government”, an “honest government”, a government which is not “inept, corrupt, inefficient”.

Oh my.

The superlatives just roll off the tongue, sort of like water rushing down a waterfall.

It sounds like ours is a paradise on earth – and the rest of the world has gone to hell. All because they (the “other” countries) do not pay their government officials out-of-this-world salaries.

More telling is why the government finds it necessary to blow their own trumpets. It is not very humble, if you asked me. (“Asian Values”, anyone?) Which is why it is time for Singaporeans to perhaps ask for an independent council to determine salaries of office holders. Never mind what Minister Teo Chee Hean said about how the ultimate decision will still have to be decided by the government.

The law can always be changed to give such a council powers to set salaries.

But what is the government’s solution to the question of someone or anyone who gets into government but is there only for the money? Simple, in the words of Minister Teo Chee Hean:

"If (a person's) motivations are self-serving or to make money, we do not select him. And if we discover that's what he's about after he has come in, we drop him," he said.” (CNA)

See? An “extraordinary” government with an extraordinarily simplistic solution. Just don’t select him but if you do, just drop him later on. End of story. Problem solved.

And while we’re at it, perhaps our “extraordinary government” should also look into the other causes of this “brain drain” in government – a de-politicised populace, curbs on political clubs in schools and society, unfair election rules, changing electoral boundaries at the very last minute, defamation laws, unfree media, etc etc.

To think that paying such high salaries will solve the problem betrays the very self-aggrandising declaration of an “extraordinary” government.

An “extraordinary” government would see that the reasons contributing to this lack of talents in government goes much deeper and more serious than not paying more than peanuts.

As the Workers’ Party secretary general, Mr Low Thia Khiang, said: Even if you pay bananas, you can still get monkeys.

Maybe we will have “extraordinary monkeys”.

But they’d still be monkeys, nonetheless.

Funny how an "extraordinary" government doesn't realise that describing itself in superlative terms are going to turn off more Singaporeans.

Perhaps that's exactly why they are "extraordinary"?