By Dr Lai Kok Fung
The matter of trust in government has received a lot of attentions lately. I believe we can learn a lot from the pioneers. I will start with my late grandfather.
My grandfather came to Malaya as a teenager. He started by working as an ironsmith apprentice, eventually saving enough to start a small shop. He raised eight children and sent them to school. My father went on to become a teacher.
When I was a kid, my grandfather was running a thriving little business. He continued working hard and lived frugally. Sometimes, he would take me to a kopitiam and order kopi-o and bak-pao (meat bun). He would carefully separate the “skin” and eat it, leaving the rests to me. He often said, “Gong-gong is old. No teeth. I eat the skin. You eat the meat.”
My grandfather was a pioneer. He strived and willingly sacrificed his own welfare for his family. Pioneers are harsh on themselves, but generous to their offspring. I would later see the same spirit on my parents.
This year, the Pioneer Package was announced to recognize the contributions of these special people. This is a good move.
I now propose a Pioneer Salary Package for political leadership. In recent years, salaries of ministers have become a lightning rod for criticism. Post GE2011, the salaries were reduced but the debate rages on. Besides distracting the nation from the real challenges, this is detrimental to political trust. We need to move on.
The package is simple:
- Ministers will draw a salary pegged to 3 times the salary of primary school principals.
- Spouse and children of the ministers will enjoy free medical care for life in local public hospitals.
- Children of ministers will enjoy free education up to post-graduate level in Singapore, but must compete for admissions on equal footing.
Details such as minimum qualifying terms and nomination rights (for singles) can be worked out.
School principals are crucial in educating our children and should therefore be paid decent salaries. 3x this figure provides sufficient financial stability. Having secured for their children the best healthcare and education that Singapore can offer, the ministers can have the peace of mind to devote themselves for the future of our nation, like the pioneers.
There is no need to lower the salaries of senior civil servants as a result. They can draw more then the political leaders. Competent and clean civil service is the bedrock of a progressive nation, but political leadership is replaceable. Political office is a calling, not a promotion.
What the ministers give up now in financial gratification, they shall be amply repaid in trust and love. Their families shall be blessed with goodwill and admiration for many generations.
About the Author:
Dr Lai Kok Fung blogs on innovation @ http://sginnovate.blogspot.com/