Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Referendum on the Ministerial Pay

There is a general trend of opinion that the Special Committee appointed by PM Lee Hsien Loong to review ministerial salaries may not meet the people's desire for a meaningful cut of the whopping ministers' pay. The composition of the Committee does not exude the kind of confidence that it will really go to the root of the problem and recommend drastic cuts. At best itwill show that it has gone through the motion of examining in detail the basis and level of ministerial salaries and come up with a cosmetic recommendation falling far short of the people's expectations. It takes great courage to recommend drastic cuts to ministerial salaries and there is the lingering doubt that the appointed committee does not possess that kind of pluck and determination.

There is some kind of consensus among certain people that an ideal way of determining the degree of ministerial salaries cut is by a referendem. This is such a heated topic and of such intense interest to the public that it is of fundamental importance for the people to be involved in the final determination of the degree of cuts in ministerial salaries. We could offer the Government three sets of proposal for the referendum for the electorate to decide. One is for a 50% cut; the second is a two-third cut and the third is a 80% cut. Even if any one of these three proposals is decided by the electorate, the ministers will still be quite comfortably off with the reduced salaries when compared with ministers' salaries in other Asian or Western countries. Service to the people must involve some sacrifices on the part of the ministers. The people will be happy and this will endear the PAP Govenment to the people.

There are rumours circulating around that another matter which is causing considerable worry and anxiety to PM Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet colleagues is the forthcoming election of the President. The PAP leadership is said to be frantically looking for a suitable candidate who could win the election considering the current unpredictable mood of the electorate. It is very important at this juncture for a pro-PAP candidate to be elected as President if only because of the need to keep the country's reserves from being inspected by an inquisitive President. Another reason is that with a pro-opposition or neutral President relationship between the President and the PAP Government may not be that congenial, especially in the case of a strong-willed President. The mood of the electorate is still not entirely in the Government's favour and any less eminent candidate they put up will likely end up in woe. The person likely to win the presidency for them is none other than the former Foreign Minister George Yeo because of his still eminent standing among the electorate. Otherwise the mood of the electorate is that they want to see a non-PAP candidate elected as President for a change. They thnik it will be good for Singapore to have a President who really represents the people without the PAP baggage.

It will be interesting to watch who will emerge as the person with the audacity to offer himself as a candidate to compete against a formidable PAP nominee. Since this is a national election, this iconic personality will likely get the opposition support and the support of all those borderline cases who voted for the PAP in the last General Election.

13 comments:

Richard said...

Regarding the upcoming Presidential election, there is a strong possibility that it might be a walkover election. Even if there is a PAP candidate (e.g. George Yeo), PM Lee, at this particular juncture, would rather not have a separate power centre apart from himself. After all, an elected President would have a more popular and direct mandate (arising from the huge number of voters in the whole of Singapore) than the PM (who was merely directly elected by the people of Ang Mo Kio GRC). Given the current insecurities of PM Lee, he might prefer not to have a Presidential election instead. It's something worth considering.

lorongm said...

Richard

The last election was on 17/08/05 (albeit it was uncontested). The Govt has no choice but to call for a EP election by latest 17/08/2011.

The Constitution states:

20.—(1) The President shall hold office for a term of 6 years from the date on which he assumes office.

2) The person elected to the office of President shall assume office on ... the day following his election.

Therefore, if there is no election by 16 August 2011, Singapore will have no President! And, of course, this will be a contravention of the Presidential Elections Act.

Alan Wan said...

Since we taxpayers are paying the President a much higher salary than our Prime Minister to 'jaga' our reserves, does it not imply that the President should be one who serves & protect our interests more than the PAP's own self interests ?

And rightfully so, the President should not be elected by the PAP government as there will be an obvious conflict of interests ?

Just imagine if LKY or any of his yes-men becomes the President, whose interests will come first ?

Gary said...

An online petition for a referendum on the minister's pay would be an ideal way to let the govt know popular feeling.

Gerard Ee is a 'govt' man and the rest of the committee for all intents and purposes are also 'govt' men whatever you may claim about their objectivity.

In fact, the elephant in the room is how would any one of the committee members, including GE, decide on such an issue since NONE of them are politicians of any kind.

They may well be office politicians or even boardroom politicians, but most certainly NOT the people's politicians.

Having accepted that the minister's pay need to be reviewed and revised, PM Lee should go on to do the right thing and not appoint a committee which for all intents and purposes would come up with some wayang and questionable rationale for keeping the pay over the moon, if not astronomical. This can only grate on the already open sore of the electorate regarding this issue. To what political does PM Lee believe such an exercise would served?

lorongm said...

Mr Yoong

I hope that with your knowledge of the inside workings of the government, and in particular, on security matters, you can answer the following.

Gerard Ee had said on Sunday that Singaporeans should not compare our ministerial salaries with the US President's because he has his own Air Force One and bodyguards paid for by the US Government, while our ministers travel by commercial airlines and pay for their own bodyguards and security.

I find Gerard Ee's comments (premature though they are) rather astonishing. Is it true that:
(a) ministers pay for their own airfares (always 1st class by SIA).
(b) they pay for their own bodyguards and security? Whenever I see LKY, GCT and LHL on tv or in the media (and the few times I have seen them in the flesh, so to speak), they are surrounded by a mini army of security personnel. Plus, they have a platoon of Gurkhas guarding their houses. Ministers also have pillar boxes outside their homes with a security detail around the clock. DO THE MINISTERS REALLY PAY FOR THE OWN 1ST CLASS AIRFARES AND/OR SECURITY GUARDS THEMSELVES?

If they don't actually pay for these items, then Gerard Ee should step down from chairing the Review Committee because he had already seriously misled the public even before he had started his duties.

Singapore Recalcitrant said...

I find Gerard Ee's comments, if true, are not honest or accurate. Ministers travel on 1st class at the Government's expense, in other words paid for by the taxpayers. So are their bodyguards and security.

lorongm said...

Dear Mr Yoong

Many thanks for verifying what I had believed (that Gerard Ee had misled the public). No doubt he will say, it was an honest mistake and let's move on.

I remember attending 2 events where LKY was invited as Guest of Honour. At one, the opening of the Academy of Law, I counted 14 bodyguards with him. About 6 or 8 were within within arm's length. Another 8 or 10 in the room.

When I attended a wedding dinner where he was invited, he was accompanied by about 15 bodyguards, who also sat through the wedding dinner at tables strategically located around him and the banquet hall. It was strange for the wedding guests where they plonked the guards (1 to a table) who had endure the presence of a stern looking bodyguard in their midst for the dinner! I understand that he didn't even give an angpow, even though 2 extra tables had to be arranged just for the pleasure of his presence.

The cost to the tax payer for his security (and also other ministers) must be massive. Is it even necessary in the first place?

Singapore Recalcitrant said...

When Singapore was under communist threats in the 60s and 70s, there was a necessity to provide bodyguards for the Prime Minister and other VIPs. It may be argued that with the communist threats gone now, there is no need for such protection.

However, this is a standard practice in almost all the countries in the world, whether Asian or Western. So, Singapore is just following this practice. Of course, the cost is massive.

Stephan said...

The Ministers' Salary should not be about the quantum but about the principle. If there is any benchmarking to be done then it should be benchmarking to the principle that other elected political leaders like Obama are being paid. The quantum is just the result of the principle. It will be interesting to see what kind of KPIs other elected leaders have. A closer example maybe the Mayor of New York.... who runs an economy bigger than Singapore's. I wonder if other elected leaders have bonuses??

lorongm said...

Stephen

Intereting that you cited the example of the Mayor of New York, who is, of course, Michael Bloomberg. It is common knowledge that his salary is the princely sum of $1.00.

Our ministers and our President Nathan, should emulate that example.

lorongm said...

Hi

This is a bit off topic, but I thought that you and your many readers may be interested to know that in spite of the fact that both LKY and GCT are supposed to have left office, the PMO's directory shows that LKY and GCT both still have Principal Private Secratries (and their PPSs have Personal Assistants) and Press Secretaries (and the Press Secretaries also have their own Personal Assistants!), etc serving them. This must be at tremendous cost to the tax payer, unless both LKY and GCT are personally paying for these staff. Check out http://www.sgdi.gov.sg/ under Ministries/ Prime Minister's Office.

Seems like nothing has changed at all, and taxpayers money is still being squandered by the MIW.

tony said...

The Singapore Government must pay the Ministers and President an amount sustainable under ANY extreme conditions that can hurt the country monetarily.I can cite many possible scenarios but let me just quote a few.
1.Earthquake...dont believe the seismologist ...or learned geographical man...Would you believe me if i tell you there will be a major flood at orchard and the tanglin 5 years ago?Lets not be complacent.
The earthquake in Sendai,Japan cost Japan more that 300billion US and increasing by the day.....
2.Terrorist plant a few bombs and detonate it.Who would bellieve that a limping terrorist can CLIMB out of a Singapore Jail....It's like calling Einstein MAD.
Having made my point,I am cautioning Singapore Govt NOT to put Singaporeans in a tight Spot when that happens...ie BANKRUPTCY!!Because we are paying the bill of retiredministers and President a Retirement package unheard of in this universe....WE SIngaporeans ARE CARRYING A NUCLEAR TIME BOMB...
Dont listen to the MPs also because they will be towing PAP line and thinking like Dr Lim Wee Kiak...Disgusting1.That NO Public servant including the President earns more than the salary of the US President.this obvious...that he is doing more work and holding more responsibility than everybody combined.self explanatory.
2.The retirement payout will be no more than 50 per cent of the last drawn salary subject to annual review or bi annual review downwardsif the country is facing financial woes.....OBVIUOS......unlike now when we can be bankrupt and yet the state must cough out the sum to pay retired ministers and senior civil servants and President...
3.The Govt . shall pay these deserving Ministers an annual Bonus if the country is doing well ... based on actual increase in our reserves and NOT increase in the amount the particular Ministry Makes...this will prevent these Ministers from "killing ' their Citizens with price increases.The payout will be across the board so that all Ministers will workas a team and not as some suggested...appraisal.....I hope the present system is not appraisal based because i know the pitfalls of such a system.....due to self preservation.. and self interest and individual interest,the system will falter...The Bonus must not exceed 3 months...just a stopper in case some 'smartie govt ' decide to beat the system by rewarding 20 months bonus...you know what i mean.
4.The govt MUST reveal our National reserves. in order to do the above.I know it is politically and strategicallysensitive,,,and that is why the INDEPENDENT President must be Elected.
That is why electing an independent PRESIDENT of SINGAPORE is important......NO RULING GOVERNMENT related persons or candidate.A conflict of interest is DEFINITE...a Danger to all Singaporeans!!!
Van you imagine a freak election allowing a party less desired to place their own cronies as President and this will compromise the security ofSingapore's reserves .Think of that ,Singaporeans,that the PAP may not be here forever or may not be permanently incorruptible...only God knows.Thankyou.

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