Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Singapore's Ministers' Salaries

Is it a ploy to please the people -- cutting Ministers' Salaries?

After the "pay cut" the average ministers' salaries would be US$1.26 million next year. Comparing it to Japan's Prime Minister's pay of US$359,000, it is still more than 3 times. And the Singapore's Prime Minister's Salary will be US$2.4 million...

Singapore's GDP per Capita is $31,000 and the average citizen earns about $2,000, a salary of more than $1 million would mean that the ministers would be living such a different lifestyle compared to the rest of the country.

The reason given for such giving the highest salaries in the world to these ministers are as follows:

1) attract the best talent
2) eliminate corruption

However in the past 10 years, the living conditions in Singapore experienced by the average citizens are worse than it was. Housing and medical costs have gone up, there are floods in the middle of the city, food prices and inflation increased, and a lot of transportation woes. The salaries of the average citizen does not increase much, yet the ministers' salaries was increased greatly in the past 10 years.

If assumption 1 was true, paying high salaries attract the best talent, why are there now floods that did not previously happen, and after more than 1 year and millions of dollars spent, why does the problem still exist?

In the case of Youth Olympic Games, the minister in charge cannot manage a budget, and overspent for an event which nobody cares. There was food poisoning, leaking of venue and other crisis as well.

The Mas Selamat incident, the most dangerous terrorist with a limp escaped the detention facility, and the minister of home affairs is clueless, and did not take any responsibility at all.

If assumption 2 was true, Singapore would be corruption free, however when you look at many of the non-transparent practices of tenders and appointing people in top positions, you will smell something fishy. There are many unnecessary construction going on that feels overpriced. Someone has to make some money off the side, and some indeed were caught.

There are also cases where people in power have relatives and friends, who have no relevant skills placed in positions of power. They are not chosen because of their competence, but rather who they know.

Singapore is ranked fifth among the least corrupt nations in the world in a 2011 index by Transparency International. The list of 183 countries was topped by New Zealand, Finland, Denmark and Sweden. (Yet ministers have highest salaries, more than 5 times their counter parts in the less corrupt countries)

“Politics is not a job or a career promotion,” Mr Lee said. “It is a calling to serve the larger good of Singapore. But ministers should also be paid properly in order that Singapore can have honest, competent leadership over the long term.”

The Straits Times newspaper quoted him as saying his current salary as minister mentor was 2.7 million Singapore dollars.

I'm sure people would like to have higher salaries, but millions a year?

Mohamad Rosle Ahmad wrote in a letter to the editor: "I am sure Enron and Worldcom paid more than top dollar for their top executives, and look where their companies are now - six feet under."

I do not believe that high salaries attract the best talent. But I'm sure it attract the most greedy and materialistic people. I feel that the closed system of "scholar run" civil service and GLC (Government Linked Companies) is a bad system, and it prevents top talents that are non-scholars from entering and contributing.

Would Chen Show Mao, be allowed to run Temasek Holdings per se, even though his qualifications was much better than Ho Ching?

The political system needs to be more open to allow people to choose who will understand their needs. It may not be ex-colonels or PSC scholars from PAP, but it might be that entrepreneur who made his millions and has no party affiliation, but just the strong passion to serve.

I hope the review of the minister salaries is just a start, and more changes are to come. We need a more transparent government that listen and understands the needs of the people, and respond accordingly, not one that is focused on growing GDP at the expense of the citizens, and gaining a large bonus as a result.

We need leaders that would take responsibility. Like the Japanese Prime minister who would take a pay cut after the Tsunami until the needs of the people are met, The CEO of SMRT and our transport ministers should also have their million dollar salaries be put on hold until they can provide better service.

P.S. they did not talk about the 26.5 months bonus

And Grace Fu, for all you make + director's pay on the boards, I'm disappointed at your last sentence of the comments.

-- Iron Bowl

1 comment:

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