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Letters to TOC – Dignified pay & national direction needed

Dignified pay

Sophia Tsang

There is much discussion regarding ministerial pay. Dr Lim Wee Kiak’s comments have now gone viral. This shows how much the populace of Singapore care about this issue.

For a start, not many bought the “pay millions to ensure no corruption" argument. To me, a man who requires million dollar salary to keep from corruption is like a man who needs a harem to keep from
lust. Trust me, there is no satisfying such a man. I also have enough faith in the integrity of my leaders that they will not be such.

Then there is the issue of speaking rights. Whether it was a tongue-in-cheek comment, or a quote out of context, the underlying suggestion in Dr Lim’s remarks is that more money, more talk. If this were true, I have suddenly become the most undignified person in my family, for even my youngest is earning some money since she is on internship, and I have no income whatsoever. Jokes aside, when our retired MM Lee called himself a "kept man", earning much less than his late wife, did he lose his authority or the respect of Singaporeans? Speaking rights is based on much more than income - think Mother Teresa.

Just as a summary of my own thoughts on this issue – it will bring shame to a wealthy nation like Singapore if we paid our parliamentarians so little that they can only manage hawker centre meals. Just like our country can now hold her head high, we do not expect our leaders to hang their heads low, because they cannot make ends meet. But this task I am confident Mr Gerard Ee will address fairly and I await his report.

Finally I do want to mention a lack of dignity. A man feels that he has no dignity when his wages do not give him enough to cover the basic needs for himself and his dependents. We are talking enough to keep bellies warm and basic living quarters. That too disgraces our country. When I read about the million dollar payouts to CEOs, which yardstick was used to calculate our ministerial salaries, I am angered.

Some companies can pay their directors and CEOs astronomical bonuses, but how much of these were the result of the blood and sweat of the staff at the bottom of the hierarchy, who barely earn enough to keep body and soul together? Spare them a thought even as we enjoy the prosperity of our nation.

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Clear national direction needed

Jeremy Chen /

Singapore seems to have been, for the past decade, floundering with no well defined direction. Granted, there have been some great new initiatives such as NParks' work in building a greener and more pleasant environment, as well as forays into large scale event management (with mixed results), but it appears that the only truly concerted movement has been increasing the population, as seen in extensions of the rail network to and relatively rapid building of housing in the northeast.

Most lists of Singapore's major achievements do not contain anything post-2000. This leads to the question of whether our leadership thinks we are "there" and only minor incremental moves are necessary. I would most certainly disagree with that proposition, pointing to clear quality of life issues that are widespread.

As a national direction, I would propose something familiar. As a statement of objectives, it reads: to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation. (Nostalgically: 建设公正平等的民主社会,并为实现国家之幸福、繁荣与进步.) That definitely sounds good and agreeable to most, though it need not be the direction for our nation as articulated by the government, but there are compelling historical reasons for it.

We need a direction to tag to and it should be clearly articulated. It will serve as a set of principles and objectives to verify all legislation and initiatives against. Conversely, such a direction may be used to design and formulate legislation and initiatives.

With apologies for the abstract, this call for an articulated direction is basically an appeal for a statement of mission, vision and values, on which strategic thrusts and the crafting of initiatives may be based. We need this, or, like corporate entities without one, be destined to flounder and envying the increasing success of others with clarity of purpose and alignment to that purpose.

I propose that the formulation of a clear direction be done in Parliament. The pledge could be the basis of one. It should be borne in mind that goals like "ensuring security" and "promoting growth" are of a strategic nature (supporting the mission and vision, respecting the values). Lets do this right and get Singapore on the road to success. Is any MP up to the task of raising a motion on this matter?