Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Stand-up Comedian

A stand-up comedian performs by standing before an audience and telling jokes putting his audience in stitches. Whether the comical performance of Acting Minister Chan Chun Sing (aka Kee Chiu in social media) of Ministry of Community Development, Youth & Sports at his ministerial community visit to Jurong Spring Ward in Jurong GRC resembles that of a stand-up comedian is not difficult to imagine. Let's examine what he said about ministers' pay at this gathering. Pay is not an issue for the team in government when asked whether the expected pay cut in ministerial pay would make ministers less motivated. He does not think they come here for the money but to provide a better life for the next generation. One of the reasons he stepped forward was because he knew he was joining a team that was not here for the money. The key is to find the right balance and money should not be the one factor to attract them which also should not be the bugbear to deter them.

Well said but perhaps with tongue-in-cheek. Acting Minister Chan Chun Sing was in fact trying to say that PAP ministers, including himself, are selfless politicians dedicated to the service of the people not because of the money and certainly without any thought of ennriching themselves. If they become multi-millionaires in the process, this is a just reward that Singapore taxpayers owe them for their so-called dedicated selfless service to the people. They are such talented and indispensable species that they consider their salaries must be commensurate with the top earners in the private sector. Their profession of selfless service to the people must be taken with a large pinch of salt. So Acting Minister Chan Chun Sing could be expected to speak with tongue-in-cheek to defend an untenable position. Perhaps the recent Straits Times crystal ball gazing that he could be the future prime minister could have caused a little swollen-headed on his part for him to rant about PAP ministers' selfless service.

An article on 22 July 2011 on this website titled "Are the 3rd generation PAP leaders really not self-serving?" (still available on this website) extolled the first generation PAP leaders like Dr Goh Keng Swee and S. Rajaratnam who really served the people without thought of money drawing modest salaries. Lee Kuan Yew led by example as the then prime minister but he later degenerated into a mercenary politician. In fact he was instrumental together with the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for the introducation of the present astronomical pay for the ministers in 1994. The point is if the first generation PAP ministers could be so noble and selfless in serving the people without enriching themselves with taxpayers' money, why is it so difficult for the third generation of PAP ministers to follow the selfless example?

True, PM Lee Hsian Loong has shown some compunction and tried to mitigate the people's wrath by appointing a Ministerial Salary Review Committee to look into ministers' salaries and recommend suitable cuts. People say this is just a wayang because the Committee's recommendations for cuts are not deep enough to satisfy the people and can best described as cosmetic. The recommended annual salary for the prime minister is still set very high at $2.2 million which is five times the annual salary of US$400,000 of the American President Barack Obama. The recommended annual salary for a junior minister is set at $1.1 million which is more than two times the annual pay of the American President. Presumably, the comical Acting Minister Chan Chun Sing will be getting this amount and it will take a lot to convince the people that he is not in it for the money. Anyway, ministerial salaries will once again certainly be a hot button topic in the 2016 General Election.


Jimmy Tan said...

Yes, back in the 60s when Singapore was aiming for independence, there was no million-dollar package waiting for "top talents" to join the government. It was about passion, service, vision and unity. How is it that we still managed to have people who were talented and willing to serve? Today, the criteria have not changed. We need people who share the same heart and vision and are not moved by ultra high ministerial salaries.

The said...

Does anyone know what is the monthly pay of a BG and MG in the SAF?

Ed Tan said...

I understand that a Colonel with an SAF Overseas Scholarship with 10-12 years of service gets paid 350k a year. BGs and MGs salaries would obviously be higher, but they are also given certain benefits from Temasek which sets up little companies here and there to 'reward' these generals.

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