It’s surprising that while everyone praises Chen Show Mao for giving up his law partnership to be a full-time MP, no one has linked his action to ministerial pay.
What Show Mao did is almost unprecedented in Singapore politics.
To give up a multi-million dollar career in exchange for what, $15K per month? That’s “peanuts” for a law partner. To give up a multi-million dollar career in exchange for a risky and uncertain future as an opposition politician in undemocratic Singapore? And to give up a multi-million dollar career to suffer the arrows and slingshots from an overwhelming number of PAP MP’s in the House?
Show Mao’s selfless example is in the best tradition of Goh Keng Swee, S Rajaratnam and other founding fathers of Singapore. The President, Prime Minister, PAP ministers and senior civil servants would do well to learn from him, as would Gerard Ee’s ministerial pay review committee.
To lead a country, one needs committed, dedicated and capable people like Show Mao, who are willing to step up when called, and even give up million-dollar careers for the sake of the country when necessary.
The US model comes to mind.
Every Administration names a Cabinet comprising successful men and women who come forward to serve the President and the country. They put their careers aside for 4-8 years to answer the call of duty. They do so not because of high ministerial pay, but because it is an honour and a duty to serve when called by the President. At the end of four or eight years, they return to the private sector, hopefully having made the country better.
No such Cabinet appointees see themselves as ministers for life. They’re not power-hungry, and indeed, many put aside their successful private sector careers, at the cost of tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, just to join the Cabinet.
So unlike PAP ministers, who see themselves as ministers for life, and so demand compensation for their lost careers.
Show Mao’s example shows us what patriotic and capable people can do to serve the country. In office, he’ll serve full time, accept whatever the pay is, and not fret about private sector benchmarks. When it’s time for him to leave, he’ll go quietly and return to being a private citizen, not ask for an “Emeritus” or “Minister Mentor” title.
Eat that, Gerard Ee!
Look beyond what the “right” pay of a minister should be, what it should be benchmarked to, and how much $$ can be justified. This ministerial pay issue is not about fair compensation at all. It’s not even about how much sacrifice such talented people have to suffer as ministers.
It’s really about whether Singapore can have a continuous stream of capable leaders who are willing to step forward to serve the country at every election.
By closing the political system to democratic participation, the PAP has made it hard to get talented people to serve the country, because they don’t agree with the PAP way.
I repeat– PAP can’t get talented people from the private sector to serve as ministers not because of the financial sacrifice. That’s BS.
Really talented people like Show Mao have already made it and don’t need more money. Money is not the problem. In any case, they can always go back to the private sector if they want to resume making money.
Talented people won’t come forward when called because these talented people can’t stand the PAP.
The million-dollar pay won’t change that. And the implication is, when you cut the million-dollar pay, you’ll have even less capable people who want to serve the country with the PAP.
Actually, for the good of the country, Gerard Ee should propose increasing Ministerial pay. Singapore will get worse when you cut Ministerial pay, Mr Ee. Eat that!
The Minister Pay Series