~by: Ravi Philemon~
“If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discusses policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister’s ideas and proposals, hence a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity.” Dr Lim Wee Kiak (source: mrbrown)
Even if the good doctor later withdrew that comment saying, “I withdraw those remarks and apologise for making them. Dignity cannot be and must not be measured purely in monetary terms”, I wonder if that’s how the minds of at least some, work in the ruling Party.
Because when the Prime Minister gave the mandate to the Ministerial Salary Review Committee, he said, “Whatever we work out, the final answer must include a substantial discount on comparable salaries in the private sector…” (source: Yahoo! News). From that directive you get a sense that this is a primary motivation factor for a sizable number of political leaders from the ruling Party.
They seem to want to match up to the leaders in the private sector and the pay packet is apparently a very big factor in trying to; and that is why the peg has to be to the top 1000 Singaporean earners, which means to the average income of top 500th and 501st earners.
After pegging it to the salaries of the top 500th to the 501st earners, they say, ‘now I’ll give you a 40 per cent discount from that’. Why is it done this way? I will make two guesses:
- There is need to know what’s your true worth – monetarily; and
- There is a need to keep the voters beholden to the political leaders for their ‘sacrifice’.
The first guess don’t need much elaboration, but the second guess is the reason why most successful appeals for car-park space or rental HDB flats is typically written in this manner, “Mr XXX MP for XXX has made representations on your behalf…we have considered your request and in view of the representation of the MP and your circumstances…”.
For the longest time, the ruling Party has kept the citizens beholden to them by giving them things that are as invisible as the 40 per cent discount. You should have gotten that HDB flat regardless of the MP writing in for you. You should have had that parking ticket waived even if the MP did not make any representations on your behalf…
But No! You have all these because the Ministers and MPs from the PAP are extra-ordinary, without whom Singapore will become a ‘black spot’. And what monetary value would you put on this great sacrifice? 40 PER CENT DISCOUNT?
And this may be one of the reasons why a number of PAP members in Parliament were quite adversarial towards Chen Show Mao’s speech when he said, “It is primarily a privilege, not primarily a burden or sacrifice. The principle of political service should come first and not be treated as a discount factor.” It must have hit a raw nerve somewhere. Even MOS Tan Chuan-Jin seemed bitten that he had to say, “there is this matter of sacrifice that I would like to address”.
Yes, I do agree that the Salary Review Committee was unbiased and that it went above and beyond its call of duty in trying to fix the Ministerial salary conundrum. But the Committee was shackled by the directives of the Prime Minister – ‘substantial discount on comparable salaries in the private sector’.
Why was this shackle placed in the first place upon the Committee? Only the Prime Minister can truly answer that question. But I’m guessing because quite a few in his Party believe that “a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity”.
But do I want a Minister who has made this great ’40 percent discount’ sacrifice to serve me? I’d say, ‘No thanks!’ It feels lousy to be beholden.