Stupid Genius

- Making mistakes is our rights, learning from them is our responsibilty.

- "I have no choice" is another way of saying "I've have chosen the easier option"

- Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration - Thomas A Edison

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Much has been said about the debate on increasing the Singapore ministers' salary. Like this article. I thought I shall throw in my 2 cents worth as well.

There are a few reasons for increasing the ministers' salary. The minister's work is similar to the top CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CXOs, so their pay should be similar to them. Having their pay similar to the top earners out there will attract the top talents into public service as ministers. Having high salary will also prevent corruption. If they are already earning so much, they are less likely to be tempted in taking bribes. They have also not had an increase in pay for a long time.

I am agreeable with having the ministers' pay being competitive with the private sector. After all, we really want the top talent into government. But I am against having them taking salary that is the equal or even more than their private sector counterpart. As what Mr Siew said, being in a member of parliament is a honour. One need to feel a certain sense of ownership and pride in being a member of parliament. Being willing to take a certain amount of sacrifice will show a certain commitment to serving the public. Of course, the amount of sacrifice have to be reasonable. Or else only the incapable or the corrupted will be willing to take up office.

Another issue I have with linking the ministers' pay to the top earners in the private sector is that the top earners in the private sector faces more risks in their jobs. Their pay fluctuates more. A CEO can be sacked in a shorter time than the ministers. When a top earner is not a top earner anymore, being replaced by another top earner, the minister still have their pay tied to the new top earner.

It was also argued that the top earner's salary improves when the when the ministers did a good job in improving the economy. The problem with this argument is that this may result in the scenario where the ministers only strive to improve the income of the top earners, neglecting those in the lower income bracket, driving the difference between the rich and the poor wider. I am no communist. I don't believe in equal pay for all. Only when there is a difference between the rich and the poor will the poor strive to be rich and the rich strive to remain rich. I remember our dear MM Lee once said equal opportunity is more important. However, if the difference become too big, it become more unachievable for the poor to cross the gap. Where is the equal opportunity in that? We don't want the situation where only the rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer. The poor man did not vote in the government to only make the rich men richer. I am not saying the current government is like that. But having this policy runs the risks of future government becoming like that.

The ministers had not had a pay increase in a long time. But as far as I remember, I did not follow news very closely so I may be wrong, the ministers had not any pay cut either. In bad economic times, where a lot of Singaporeans were retrenched or had massive pay cuts, the government declared that they'll freeze their pay like it's a very big deal. I wonder how much the top earners are earning at that time.

Even though economy good now, there are still a lot of very poor families. When they just refused to offer $110 to 3000 households that do not have the capacity to work, they want to increase their salary? Talk of bad timing. Read more here

On top of that, we are going to have a increase of 2% for our GST coming up. Did we just pay more tax so that they can have their payrise? They sure did not list that as 1 of the reasons for it. I think they mentioned something about better able to help the poor as 1 of the reasons.

Keeping the ministers' salary competitive is a good idea. However the best of intentions, if executed badly, can leave a very sour taste to other people. I just hope the relevant people reviewed the whole system properly before implementing. Of course, it could also be that my arguments were flawed because I may not have the full picture. I can only make judgment on what I know.

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