Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Ministerial Musical Chair

The antics of ex-ministers going on a musical chair are not an uncommon phenomenon. The latest caper is the taking over from Mr. Lim Chee Onn as non-exectutive chairman of Keppel Corp by Dr. Lee Boon Yang, until recently Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts from July 1.

Ministers are equated by the government with chief executive officers (CEO) of multi-national corporations (MNC) in ability if not in status. But then in the history of Singapore politics, has there ever been any ex-minister who is considered a sufficently qualified and viable candidate for any reputable MNC? They can only be suitable for absorption by government-owned or sponsored corporations. MNC's are down-to-earth people and much as they would like to respect the government's evaluation of its ministers, they owe it to their share-holders to ensure that they do not take any unnecessary risk to their corporations by taking in CEO's of unproven quality. The consequence is that one finds ex-ministers being placed in government-owned or sponsored undertakings such as Singapore Press Holdings, Capitaland, Keppel Corp and the like as no reputable MNC's would want to risk employing them.

Which brings us to a pertinent point. The government has often crowed about the intrinsic calibre of its ministers and equated them with the highest echelon in the corporate world. So they pay themselves astronomical sums to give the skewed impression that they are really worthy of their whopping salaries. But the harsh realities of the corporate world give a lie to the government's position.

What the ordinary Singaporeans cannot stomach is that while the rest of Singaporeans, especially those on the poverty borderline and the retrenched, suffer from the economic downturn, the opulent ministers still hung on to their sinful whopping pay. And was it not a sickening joke for the Prime Minister to say that he and his ministers were suffering together with the masses? Like the writer Patriot said in his sarcastic reply to Dr. Lee Wei Ling's letter to the press which mentioned her mother's vaunt that suffering and deprivation was good for the soul. Patriot replied pointedly and sarcastically that Dr. Lee's mother's suffering and deprivation was like utopia to the ordinary Singaporean.

That the Singapore ministers are filthy rich, especially MM Lee's family, is obscenely plain for the people to see. In spite of his opulence, MM Lee is drawing a whopping salary and jetting around at taxpayers' expense to spout poetries to a gullible world audience. As he says when the coffin is closed, you will have the verdict. We all look forward to the day, especially those who survive him.

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