In a conversation with American philanthropist and businessman David Rubenstein and American think tank, the Atlantic Council, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the Government in Singapore pays the officials “according to what he (or she) is worth), as well as “according to what they are contributing”. He also went on to insist that this is a model that works for Singapore.
Prima facie, there’s nothing wrong with what Lee has said. Peel back a layer however, questions abound:
- Who decides what someone is worth?
- Who decides whether someone’s contributions are worthy?
The recent coronavirus pandemic has displayed for the world to see that it is the essential workers and healthcare workers that are truly important.
If we follow Lee’s analogy, shouldn’t our nurses be paid a lot more than say a minister (Josephine Teo) who remains firmly ensconced in her position despite the coronavirus raging within our migrant worker population? Yet, our nurses are paid less than other developed countries in the region.
So, who dictates the value of a person’s contributions? What is the framework for deciding if a person is truly making a contribution?
Looking at the nursing example and the Josephine Teo example, does Lee still think that this “model” works for Singapore?
Lee also went on to say that “we believe it’s better for us to be open about this and to be honest about this very difficult problem, but to make sure that our public officers are paid competitively. And if you enter the political leadership, then you are paid a clear and significant discount compared to the private sector, but not such a huge discount that it becomes unwearable.”
It is curious that he has praised the virtue of openness and honesty when his wife has seemingly attacked Pritam Singh for being open and honest about how he intends to spend his publicly funded wage?
It does become hard not to come to the conclusion that it is one rule for the PAP establishment and another for the opposition when Ho Ching seemingly questions Singh’s integrity for donating part of his publicly funded salary to good causes while her husband, the Prime Minister calls his Government open and honest (in the international forum) for justifying why public servants should be so well paid. The irony is strong indeed.
So, does this mean that a minister who has proven to be seemingly unable to control the migrant worker coronavirus outbreak deserves a high salary while nurses putting their lives at risk dealing with the real effects of the virus deserve a low wage in Lee’s model?
Does it also mean that a opposition politician accounting for how he will spend part of his publicly funded salary on good causes has nefarious intentions while defending sky high ministerial salaries is open and honest?