We often hear of smooth-talking politicians professing vehemently that they are dedicated to serving the people but in the end most of them are more motivated by enriching themselves. There is no dearth of such self-serving politicians, especially in the third world.
Singapore is proud of its first generation PAP leaders who were sincere politicians dedicated to serving the people, especially the poor, without any unwholesome thoughts of enriching themselves in the process. They were quite contented with the modest stipends they got for their ministerial pay. And there was an almost complete absence of any corrupt tendency among the ministers in spite of their modest pay. They were elected by the people for the people in the true sense of the words. And there was no lack of their political zeal in transforming a backward Singapore society to a more developed one where poverty of the lowest rung was reduced to a considerably manageable degree. We think that their names can go down in Singapore's history as remarkable selfless nation builders.
The second generation PAP leaders inherited the legacy of the first generation in remarkable condition and for the first few years the tradition of serving the people was carried on. Then in the middle of 1990s the Prime Minister hit on a brainwave that in serving the people they must not overlook the opportunity of enriching themselves from the country's wealth. So without any tinge of compunction, an astronomical scale of salaries of two or more millions a year each was introduced to reward the so-called impoverished ministers. All these merrily came out of the taxpayers' money, Can the taxpayers demur?
Now this introduction of astronomical ministerial salaries gave an entirely different perception to the lofty ideal of serving the people. The people were now served by ministers motivated by a whopping salary and the distinction between greed and service was hardly palpable. So we now had a provider of service to the people without a soul and was merely a mercenary. This caused a lot of unhappiness to the people who had voiced their vitriolic criticisms on the ministerial salaries but they were unable to sway the intransigence of the PM. The people's wrath, however, continued to fester.
Then came the third generation PAP leaders who continue to carry on blithely the astronomical ministerial salary tradition and their so-called service to the people which we must now view askance. As long as their motivation is their whopping salaries, the distinction between greed and service to the people is at best indistinguishable. As one citizen puts it, a blind PAP leadership is trying to lead a sighted people. As the Chinese saying goes: the people's eyes are snow-clear (雪亮）(which means very clear) and they can easily see through the disingenuity of the PAP leaders. They are just biding their time until the opposition can come up with a viable alternative governmental slate of candidates. Or they can show their disapprobation by delivering a more telling anti-PAP result in the next general election.
PM Lee Hsien Loong had a premonition and had very wisely ordered a review of the ministerial salaries. We will wait and see whether the outcome is drastic enough to meet the people's expectation. The most absurd is the President's salary which should have been included in the review. He draws $4.2 million a year holding babies, attending Istana open houses and receiving foreign dignitaries. When asked by a wag what he has been doing all these years as a President, he was at a loss for words for a reply and sheepishly asked his enquirer to read his memoirs (as yet unpublished). His is just a ceremonial role and it is suggested that $500,000 a year is more than adequate for his office.