Saturday, April 4, 2009

Uniquely Singapore

Is there any fundamental difference between a minister without portfolio and a minister in the Prime Minister's Office(PMO)? As far as can be seen, both are holders of minister's post but without ministerial functions like being in overall charge of a ministry. Would any right-thinking person describe these ;as sinecures? And would such a person be branded as an iconoclast?

There is no other place in the world, except Singapore, a small country where you have three ministers in the PMO. As has been said they do not have any portfolio to take charge of and yet they draw a minister's pay out of taxpayers' money. More than two million dollars a year is no peanuts. In fact nowhere in the world, not even in America, an economic superpower, is a minister paid such an astronomical salary. And their minister has a responsibility far exceeding that of the Singapore minister.

Another unique feature of the Singapore government is that you have two Senior Ministers(SM) and one Minister Mentor(MM) (actually a SM by another name to justify his whopping salary of three million dollars a year). Quite frankly, two are out of job former prime ministers and one a deputy prime minister who are re-employed at the taxpayers' high expense to tap on their prestige and so-called invaluable experience once in a while. In other developed countries, especially in America, their retired presidents have the dignity of eschewing the crutch mentalityof relying on the government for glorified sinecure appointments.

A shining example of dignified personality is none other than Mr. Bill Clinton, the renowned past president of the United States.He not only did not rely on his successor to any job handout to keep him from unemployment, on the contrary he is such a charismatic personality with inimitable oratorical skills that his erudite lectures are performed to captivated audiences not only in the United States but in Europe and other parts of the world earning him enormous sums of money not to mention international prestige.

Surely our SM and MM, especially the latter, do not lack similar charisma and oratorical skills and could easily give Mr. Bill Clinton a run for his money if they really want to be self-supporting. With their resourcefulness there is no dearth of opportunity for them to secure a lucrative niche in the business world. Again with their age and enormous fortunes, do they really have to work for a living? They could gain the respect of the rakyat by offering their services gratis to the country.

People are wondering why a small country like Singapore requires two deputy prime ministers (DPM).Apart from helping the PM in some of his duties, the DPM is required to stand in for the PM in the latter's absence. Surely the PM is expected to be judicious enough to ensure that he and his deputy are not unavailable at the same time. If this is conscientiously adhered to, does it not follow thaty the second post of DPM becomes redundant?

The plethora of sinecure appointments involving the SM, MM, the three ministers in the PMO and the two posts of DPM are all very perplexing to the ordinary people who, as the Chinese saying goes: "Dare to be angry but not dare to speak up" for obvious reason - they want to avoid incurring the wrath of the government. The renowned Chinese sage, Confucius, would have expressed it with his famous saying: "I do not want to see any more".

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