Moral authority

I had a fun time reading and watching some of the parliament speeches, some of which makes me think real hard. Not about the reason high pay is required, because I don’t see a point in bringing up a topic to discuss when there’s nothing to discuss anyway.

The PM had already said that the government (or rather, himself) decided to accept the wage proposal created by a committee formed by himself and that the ‘whip’ will not be removed, meaning the majority PAP controlled parliament can only approve the proposal as well.  It’s akin to a school headmaster asking his fellow teachers to grade him for his performance but he can choose to approve whether that grade is acceptable. In other words, the PM grades himself. What I am really concern about is the capability and logic thinking skills of the various ‘talents’ the PAP government had ushered into the highest decision body in Singapore.

There is this unknown MP who calculates that an estimated 3.5 million Singaporeans pay only $1 each for the Prime Minister, and the PM is ‘kind enough’ to ‘sacrifice’ a hefty discount to take ‘only’ $2.2 million a year. I laughed. Going by that logic, the US President should be paid $300 million, the Indian PM should be paid $1.2 billion, and the Chinese Premier should expect $1.3 billion. That would mean every single head of state in the developed world is seriously underpaid. I smell a wisp of chao-tar curry in the air. Too much curry powder was added and the flame was overwhelming.

Another unknown MP re-paraphrase what the Deputy PM Teo Chee Heng had mentioned, about ‘not being fair’ to compare the salaries of other countries as other head of states enjoy hidden perks like housing, free air ticket, and (he emphasized the words) “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera”. If there are so many et ceteras, why couldn’t the MP simply list the figures down clearly? The emphasizes of et cetra without a concrete figure is vague and ambiguous. If you have the figures, back it up. If not, it’s empty speech.

One female MP talks about being unfair to measure politician salaries base on civil service salaries given the larger responsibilities and more important decision making politicians face. If salary is a measurement of responsibility, it would mean managing a $220 billion economy with a population of 5 million is more complicated and difficult than managing a $15 trillion economy with a population of 300 million, never mind the other factors such as natural disasters and strong labor unions when we compare Singapore and USA.

The fact that only 1 PAP MP Ms Denis Phua raised concerns about the revised salary structure reeks of Group Think and reluctance to challenge the decisions made by the PM within the PAP–the very idea of nonexistence of impartiality in a dominating PAP parliament. The PM said that it is still possible to have healthy debates in a PAP dominated parliament during the last General Election. Obviously, it’s not true. All in all, it sent a shiver down my spine to think that these are the so called ‘talents’ that the PAP is pursuing to lead the country.

The PM mentioned that Singapore is extraordinary. Yes, we are extraordinarily open to foreigners. We are extraordinarily friendly to various corporations. And we pay our political leaders extraordinarily well. While self-praising themselves as extraordinary elites and insinuating that without the PAP, Singapore will deteriorate, the deterioration process has already started proven from the recent problems haunting the country. The many years of self-serving elitism had eschewed on whatever remaining moral the old PAP had build up. The new PAP is an obsessed financier that place a price tag on everything, mix with his own people, benchmark his performance on growing the bank account even if it means structuring products that would cause harm to his clients as long as his own profits increase, and measure his capability in dollars and zeros. In the logic of PAP, a high pay equates to talent and vice versa.

If the logic is true, is it not only fair for Singaporeans to have extraordinary expectations? So why aren’t Singaporeans enjoying an extraordinary life? In fact, I don’t think that Singaporeans have an extraordinary expectation of their government. I remembered a time when most Singaporeans are contented about the PAP government until the foreigners, transportation, housing and cost of living issues started brewing in the beginning of the new millennium.

Despite all that explanation, the PM and Deputy PM’s reasoning are flawed. Singapore is a larger entity than the PAP. The PM’s reasoning simply means that the PAP is unable to find talents without paying top dollar. It does not mean that Singapore is unable to find talents without paying top dollar. It is important that we are conscious that the PAP might not govern Singapore forever. The fact that we have Chen Show Mao, a Harvard grad and Rhodes Scholar to give up a top paying job as a partner of a top lawyer firm renowned world-wide to take up a MP position in the opposition camp, is the perfect example of what a real sacrifice should be. Not those calculative ‘sacrifices’ espoused by unproven, mostly ex-civil servants or ex-top management of government-linked companies that only managed to hop on the coat tails of PAP into parliament.

I view the discussion of the ministerial salary as a valuable chance for the PAP government to regain whatever credibility they have lost over the last few years. What I witnessed is reluctance to go for bold changes and speeches that makes me question the capabilities and real reason for joining politics of the various ‘elected’ MPs and ministers of the ruling party. It seems that the PAP is not only extraordinarily generous in rewarding themselves, they are also extraordinary in one aspect: the lack of moral authority.

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  1. Anonymous
    January 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Great writing.

  2. January 18, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Thank you for your compliment.

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