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Dignity and respect come from genuine service

Andy Soon /

I refer to the article in ‘Lianhe Zaobao’ in regards to PAP MP Dr Lim Wee Kiak remarks about ministerial pay which should be able to reflect the dignity and status of a minister and his subsequent claims that his comments was taken out of context.

As Dr Lim attempts to explain himself on Facebook, it seems like a weak effort to defend himself for his comments which infuriate Singaporeans.

Perhaps he should not have commented on the salary issue while the council appointed by PM Lee is still in the midst of deliberating what a minister is worth.

Singaporeans do not ‘short-change’ ministers. However, at a time when the pension scheme and high annual salary of ministers comes under intense criticism from the public whose CPF scheme is under tight control and where they can’t even draw out any money until the age of 62, it is perhaps unwise to make comments such as his.

After all, President Obama is earning much less than Mr Warren Buffett or Mr Bill Gates. Yet, there were never any issues with his dignity being compromised. In fact, Mr Warren Buffet and Mr Bill Gates contribute much of their fortune to their own charities to help the less fortunate.

People respect President Obama because he is the president of the United States and they respect the fact that his job is the toughest job in the world as he has to maintain the power balance in the world, in his own Cabinet, lead the fight against terrorism, boost the ailing US economy, create more jobs for the homeless in the United States and so on - all while under the constant risk of being assassinated by political enemies from other countries.

As Dr Lim talks about ministerial pay being a fair reflection of their job scope, he should perhaps pause and think of the above. Does a minister of Singapore carry as heavy a burden as the President of the United States? Granted a minister’s job is never easy, but if Dr Lim is talking about respect, people respect ministers for their dedication and love for the people rather than the fat salaries that they are drawing.

In addition, democracy is such that if any CEOs disagree with any minister, they have the right to speak up. It does not mean that the one with the bigger payroll have the loudest voice.

Singaporeans were never disagreeable about paying ministers an adequate amount of remuneration. What they are concerned about is the quantum of salaries paid out. An example at home would be ex-housing minister Mr Mah Bow Tan who earned an annual salary of a few million. Yet, I would find it hard to find anyone who would actually agree with his housing policies or his constant insistence that HDB flats are affordable. The people who disagreed are just normal people for whom an annual salary of a few million remains but a lifelong dream.

Dr Lim may be worried that under the yet to be unveiled salary scheme, he might have to take a drastic pay-cut. However, he should know that normal Singaporeans are getting by on much less.

Opposition MPs such as Mr Chiam See Tong took a massive pay-cut when he closed down his law firm to concentrate on maintaining Potong Pasir. He did not complain at all. Singaporeans respect him for his dedication.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew did the same thing and left his family to the care of his wife. He was never ridiculed for not earning much to support the family and even today, he is still arguably the most respected Singapore politician in the world.

Let us assure Dr Lim that even if ministers took a massive pay-cut, they will still be respected if the people know that they are working for the people and he will definitely have enough to support his family.

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Headline picture from Yahoo News.