Friday, January 6, 2012

Serving the People or Self-serving?

PAP leaders are the first to assert vehemently that they are in politics to serve the people. But are they really or is it because of the astronomical salaries they pay themselves out of taxpayers' money? They can holler till the cows come home but few, if any, of the politically-conscious Singaporeans will swallow that they are in it for altruistic reasons.But then they can come round to say that majority of Singaporeans have returned them to government at every election. That seems to be a conundrum as in the last General Election (GE) in May last year 60.1 per cent of the electorate who cast their votes voted for the PAP. This was despite the massive disillusionment about the PAP in the run-up to the last election. The erratic mood of the electorate had even stumped the predictability of the psychologists. But the next GE in 2016 may see a greater watershed performance by the opposition parties, especially the Workers' Party (WP) .

When the Ministerial Salary Review Committee under Mr Gerard Ee was formed after the GE, the initial response of discerning Singaporeans was one of scepticism that it could really recommend drastic cuts of ministerial salaries considering the composition of the Committee. "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" which saying aptly sums up what the Review Committee could do or was willing to do. With due respect to them, if they recommend too drastic a cut of the ministerial salaries they probably fear that they will incur the wraths, if not displeasures, of the PAP wallahs. It will be less onerous facing the wraths and displeasures of the ordinary Singaporeans.

Can Mr Gerard Ee and his committee honestly say that the recommended annual salary of $2.2m for the Prime Minister, which is five times the annual pay of US$400,000 of Mr Barack Obama, the American President, is a fair charge to the Singapore taxpayers? Or the recommended $1.1m for the junior minister, which is more than two times the annual salary of the American President? The accusation that the ministerial salary revision is merely a perfunctory cosmetic exercise of the Ministerial Salary Review Committee is never too far-fetched. To all intents and purposes this is now a fait accompli and since the recommendations have been accepted by the Prime Minister and his government, there is virtually nothing that the disgruntled Singaporeans can do now to reverse the process except to wait patiently for the next election in 2016 to show their dissatisfaction. The ministerial salaries will once again be a festering topic in the next GE.

Singaporeans are not unfamiliar with the highfalutin figure of Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of state in the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts and the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources. Apart from being highfalutin, she appears to be also narcissistic. She was reported to have audaciously said that when she entered politics in 2006, pay was not a key factor for her. The more considerations for her were the loss of privacy and personal time, public scrutiny and career disruption. She further said:"I had some ground to believe that my family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though I experienced a drop in my income. So it is with this recent pay cut. If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering political office."

It was not surprising that her adverse comments swiftly went viral and there were around 1000 critical comments from netizens. She tried to salvage the situation by claiming that she had been misunderstood. There is a Chinese saying: When a word is spoken even a four-horse carriage finds it difficult to chase.(一言既出,驷马难追).

Ms Grace Fu has not proven herself to be exceptionally outstanding in her work. If anything , she comes across to the public as a run-of-the-mill type and not any talent to be crowed about. She should consider herself extremely fortunate to be appointed a senior minister of state and should not behave like a spoilt child just because of a minor pay cut. Considering the humongous salary she enjoys, if she has any compunction she should be serving the people and not be self-serving. A very good example for her to emulate is the inimitable selfless Workers' Party MP Mr Chen Show Mao who gave up a lucrative profession to serve the people of Singapore as an MP. He is what I would call a true patriot. Mr Chen Show Mao is not only an exemplar for Ms Grace Fu to follow but for the whole PAP leadership as well.

Finally, Ms Grace Fu could gracefully choose to go back to her former profession if she thinks that it would satisfy her ego.


Gary said...


What was she before she become a professional politician?

As far as I am aware, her meritocracy is that her father once worked for LKY as press secretary. So she is a safe bet. That's the story of the PAP in essence -made up of 'safe' clones. LKY even only employed 'Ah Mah' from China who returned to China when they 'retire' bringing with them his family secrets so no Singaporeans outside his family knows them. One can imagine his huge sense of insecurity and secrecy.

Gary said...

Sorry, my earlier post should read as 'career' politician, NOT professional politcian!

Unknown said...

Indeed, all PAPs should be given the option to return to their "higher paying jobs" if they are unsatisfied with salaries they are paid to serve the public. Isnt that the quiessential of a free market conomy, socially mobility and meritocracy they have preached themselves?

Kojakbt said...

Hi Siew Wah,

A good write up. May I have your permission to post on TR Emeritus (

Thank you.

Singapore Recalcitrant said...

Dear Kojakbt,

You are welcome to post my article.

Please feel free to publish my article you find suitable without clearing with me in future. That was the arrangement I had with TRE before it suspended operation.

Singapore Recalcitrant said...

Lee & Lee gives a more appropriate translation of the Chinese saying: 一言既出,驷马难追. in his comment in Temasek Review Emeritus which posted my article. He translates it as: "When words leave one's lips, it is hard to retrieve". I concur with his translation in this context.