The lobby against the existing pay policy for government ministers has at long last won a hearing.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night announced a committee to review the basis and level of political salaries. National Kidney Foundation chairman Gerard Ee will chair the committee.
Although I’m one of many Singaporeans who have many things to bitch about the PAP government, the pay for ministers and civil servants isn’t one of them where I’m concerned. I may be in the minority, maybe even a minority of one!
I know why many of my compatriots grouse about the issue. It’s often a case of envy. Most feel that they are as qualified as — if not more qualified than — any of the holders of political office. Yet pay and prestige wise, they aren’t enjoying the same benefits or recognition in their chosen fields.
Worse, many critics believe that if the office holders had remained outside politics, they won’t have made it anywhere in the private sector to draw the sort of pay of the likes of Choo Chiau Beng, to name but one.
Of course none of these pay critics would admit to that four-letter word beginning with “e”. Instead, they would argue from the moral high ground. Serving the country isn’t like any old job; so that ugly five letter word — money — must not come into it.
By putting a price on political office, they aver, is to cheapen that office and diminish, if not destroy, the authority to govern.
Where i’m concerned, the critics aren’t necessarily any better or worse than the highly-paid office holders they lambast, whether in mind, body, intellect, skills, EQ, IQ, no-cue.
It’s just that A chose or was rail-roaded into becoming a lawyer, B a banker, C an entrepreneur, D a media specialist and XYZ a politician in the PAP ruling the best of breed city-state.
So, if the guardian of a multi-billion $ shipbuilder is considered to be worth an 8-figure emolument, why shouldn’t 7-figure sums be paid for posts to run a country with hundreds of billion $ worth of assets and a population that’s larger than any of the workforce that’s being managed by our captains of industry, banking and finance?
Thus I’ve no quarrels with the quantums our government ministers are being paid. Nor do I expect to have any quibbles should Mr Ee come up with a formula that cuts ministeral pay. That’s something for Parliament to decide and would-be politicians to weigh up.
What i hope however is that Mr Ee and Parliament won’t be swayed by asinine arguments like those I’ve received of late.
One email in my inbox quoted Mr David Marshall who it was claimed received just $6K a month when he was chief minister. Another citing President Harry Truman of the US said he was awarded an annual pension of US$25K a year.
What these low-pay for high-office disseminators forgot to add was that all that happened in the 1950s.
That was be4 man went to the moon. Britannia still ruled the waves, more or less. Television was in its infancy. Most people who went overseas, other than Malaya, went by boat. My parents bought a terrace house for all of $10K (Straits dollars). I went to kindergarten with just 20 cents for pocket money. My mom’s hair-dressing apprentices were paid $10 a month and there was a queue waiting to join.
Today, you probably can’t buy even a paper house for $10K. There would be no takers, even the hungriest of foreign workers, for pay of $10 a month. TV is so yesterday. The Straits Times Pocket Money Fund won’t be seen dead doling out 20 cents a day to the needy kids it sponsors.
I rest my case.