Singapore is in need of leaders who are compassionate and driven by a strong desire to serve its people above all else, and who are not "disconnected" with the struggles of the average Singaporean to the point of calling people who earn less than half a million "mediocre", said the managing director of RADION Enterprise, Mr Eugene Wee.
Mr Wee, who is also the founder and co-executive of the international Christian humanitarian organisation, made the statement in response to the heated debate surrounding Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's "solutions" in coping with rising living costs in Singapore, as well as the issue of exorbitant ministerial salaries, adding a reference to Emeritus Senior Minister Mr Goh Chok Tong's controversial statement regarding the issue.
Mr Wee added that it is the supposedly "mediocre" Singaporeans who make up 95 per cent of the population "who have opted to go without a minimum wage", and have "kept the country attractive to investors", highlighting that Singaporeans are a hardworking lot in spite of the dismal pay they receive.
He suggested: "If "mediocre" meant a generation of Singaporeans who love, bleed and gave sacrificially for the country, maybe it's also time the leaders joined us in being "mediocre", and maybe "right-size" a little," hinting at the reduction of the million-dollar ministerial salaries.
Netizens have generally lauded the open letter.
Sam Tan commented:
Great article! Too bad your message will be lost or not understood by the MIW [Ministers in White] who are too comfortable in their ivory tower, already used to high pay, low or no accountability responsibility. Just too bad most Singaporeans are "mediocre" beings, get use to the labeling and start slaving away in work, may I suggest to all whose earning less than $500k annually.
Yen Hao wrote:
Well said, but I feel this will fall on deaf ears. We have given chances after chances to these so-called leaders, but all of the promises have been broken. Remember how pathetic LHL sounded when he said sorry to the people during 2011 election? Did he say sorry again in 2015 election? These 7 years have just further alienated his entire bunch of useless ministers. I applaud and support your message.
Christopher Lim said:
We do not mind tightening our belts but when our leaders tell us to do that while they stay fat off our efforts, it is just morally wrong. How can a leader expect his followers to respect him if he doesn’t walk the walk? I am a mediocre Singaporean and proud of it!
Ryan Seet wrote:
The issue here is “right sizing” is now official policy. Problem is it will lead to contraction in the domestic economy. So the policy is to ownself recession ownself? Nuts! So everybody reduces spending 5% imagine what happens next? Madness.
Derek Leong, however, argued the following:
That makes for all good sound bite, even though it comes from a wall of words. So here is my wall of words.
I think we all agree that people are suitable for different types of roles, and not everyone can be a leader in everything, especially a leader of a country.
And especially for Singapore, a small state with NO hinterland, almost no resources, and located right in a middle of a challenging geo-political region.
It takes exceptional people to run the country and run it well now and to prepare her for future generations as well. We were lucky to have leaders like Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee, Rajaratnam in the early years. They have emerged in a time of chaos, revolution and change in a post-colonial world. Even then, it was pure luck that we got these people rather than the rapacious leaders that impoverished many countries that became independent the same time as Singapore.
Yes, to serve politically can be considered a calling. But for Singapore, the calling is really for certain people. Unfortunately, the reality is that the number of 'exceptional' people with the right calbre and temperament is limited in Singapore. Our first Prime Minister recognised the issue and has addressed it long ago...
The truth is that more and more countries are realising that to have political leaders with real capabilities and the right mindset to get things done right for their country are not really in abundance. They are looking to our systems and leaders on how to 'get things right' in issues like housing, education, water and power resources management etc.
And here is the thing, quoting one of our politicians in a speech few years ago..."The strength of our clean-wage system is also its weakness. The transparency of this system allows us to know exactly how much our political office holders get. However, the difficulty is that we alone implement this system. When nobody else in the world has a clean-wage system, and all comparisons are made purely on cash-income, then our leaders will always look like the highest paid."
One more. A lot of people has forgotten. Even our largest opposition party in Parliament has no issue to pay our ministers and office holders adequate salaries. In fact, their proposal is to pay them at a higher level than what our ruling party has tabled.
Isn't that interesting? So who says politics is boring in Singapore?
Ong Kah Chye wrote in response to Derek Leong's comment:
Personally, I have no strong opinion of remuneration packages for ministers & civil servants. However, I feel that there is no “accountability” on failures, and that is where things have gone wrong! Furthermore, I feel that our leaders have already formed an “elite club”... Members of this club are godlike, as though their services are “perpetual”...& if they really fail flat, step down after pocketing millions!
Vern Tat Ng said:
Paying anyone well, don’t mean it will comes with conviction and compassion.
Full of conviction and compassion might not be competence.
Loh Siew Kee wrote:
I am a Merdeka Generation guy, and I can attest that I, too, had to work very hard to get to where I am now - no expensive car, no expensive private home, but I think a manageable situation in my retirement. It is, in reality, a matter about choice. A dinner at a hawker stall, or a dinner in one of our 5-star hotels. A good enough car, or an expensive one. An HDB or decent condo, but not in Orchard Road. All of us work hard, and at the end of the day, we look tired. Look at the Minister. The grey hairs and haggard and tired look. I think they work hard too. I have no qualms about the high salary as long as they deliver. Yes, there will be always areas to improve big in general. We have a decent standard of living, a safe place to bring up children, relatively not much corruption (I do not say no), and ample job opportunities if you are willing to work. In my 45 years of working, I had travelled to many countries and cities, but Singapore will always be my home. There are no second thoughts. The constant push to vote the incumbent team out is not the solution.
Where are the suggestions to solve the problems highlighted?
However, the remark by GCT is insensitive and uncalled for. Singapore cannot be successful with just the PM and Ministers. It needs the combined efforts of all the "mediocre" people (GCT's definition) in order to bring success.