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We not stupid, ok?

~by: Siew Kum Hong~

The Straits Times ran a story on PAP MPs' rebuttals of Mr Chen Show Mao's speech on ministerial salaries. [note: the ST story is completely available for free, but it may not stay fully available for long]

Below is the text of what I wrote on Facebook about these PAP MPs' so-called rebuttals.

I am posting this instead of working because this article made me so fed-up. It is ok for politicians to engage in politicking, and it is entirely expected that PAP MPs would line up to try to rebut Mr Chen Show Mao (and probably told to do this, when they were scheduled to speak after him). But I cannot stand poorly-reasoned arguments, which are replete here.

1. "'The difference between the proposal accepted by the PAP Government and the WP's proposal is that the latter leaves out the principle of sacrifice (and the) discounts to reflect service to the people,' [Zaqy] said."

An odd conclusion, because the PAP-accepted proposal pays more (on an annual basis) to ministers than the WP proposal. How you get there (the formula) is important, but where you end up (the amount) is also important. If the WP proposal omits sacrifice, then how much more so the PAP-accepted proposal which pays even more?

2. ""It would be 'more transparent' to peg ministerial salaries to 'the competitive salaries that the calibre of people we are looking for in ministers earn, or have the potential to earn', said the Minister of State for Health [Amy Khor]."

Surely Dr Khor is not suggesting that the WP proposal is non-transparent. Whether or not you agree with it (I myself am not completely sold, because we would probably see the MX9 benchmark creep upwards), it is simple and transparent. The WP proposal was constructed using a bottoms-up approach, based on principled reasoning on how ministerial salaries should be determined. You may disagree with the approach, but calling it "less or non-transparent" is misconceived.

3. ""Such excitement 'was not because Mr Chen was considered to be a 'median-income' sort of guy, or somehow an emblem of the lowest income quintile of society', observed Mr [Alvin Yeo]. "Rather, with his 'sterling qualifications', Mr Chen 'was proof that opposition parties could also attract the sort of top talent, that one day perhaps may form the Government'."

Actually, the excitement was because Mr Chen gave up a big job and a big salary to join the Opposition (no parachute for him, no near-guarantee of a win) and then become a regular MP -- with nary a whine or moan about his pay-cut. Until the PAP understands that Singaporeans loved that because it exemplifies the spirit of public service (and the uncomplaining sacrifice that the PAP likes to talk about so much), they will NEVER get it.

4. "'Pay should not be the reason for entering politics, but neither should it be the reason for losing talent,' said Mr [Sam] Tan (Radin Mas) in Mandarin."

Actually, it should be, if the so-called talent in question is so overly-concerned about money, that a salary that can support a very comfortable lifestyle is not enough.

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This post was first published on Siew Kum Hong's blog.