The End For The Opposition

The PAP has just called the Opposition’s bluff. It has upped the ante, it is now calling for the Opposition to show hand. And what have they got to show for it?

Yes, we will cut the President’s salary by 50%. We will ditch the pension scheme. We will cut the PM’s salary. We will stop having million-dollar ministers. We will stop linking minister bonuses to GDP alone.

Read between the lines: WE WILL DO ANYTHING TO STAY IN POWER. Even if it means giving up 50% of our pay.

Many in the Opposition think this is their victory. Wait till they realize that they now have one less thing to fight the PAP on, one less reason for the electorate to vote for them in 2016.

If they don’t understand what they should do as real politicians, not as checkers and balancers, 2011 could well be the beginning of the end for the Opposition as we know it.

The Minister Pay Series

1. Eat That, Gerard Ee
2. The End For The Opposition
3. Where Ee and PAP Failed
4. Why PAP Needs High Minister Salaries
5. Are PAP Ministers Man Enough?


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Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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39 Responses to The End For The Opposition

  1. Hans says:

    This is what you think. Things can work the other way too. The electorate will realize that without a substantial opposition presence in parliament, the ministerial salary cuts would not have materialized. Hence the tendency is for the electorate to vote in more opposition MPs. I think the May 2011 GE marked the end of the era of the PAP.

  2. Sgcynic says:

    Is this a u-turn or a rethink?

  3. Hans says:

    More like a u-turn than a rethink, depending upon your point of view.

  4. Sgcynic says:

    What are the implications of a u-turn? What does that say for the previous policy and amount paid out?

    • It says the previous policy could not be accepted politically, it cost them too many seats, and the party must now cut losses.

      And of course, you cannot ask people to repay what was legally paid to them by a previous Govt and a previous Parliament.

  5. Sgcynic says:

    While it is true that the high pay, “cannot be accepted politically” questions remain whether the policy was based on sound principles and whether the right ‘formula’ was used to derive the quantum. Contrast the past reasons and the current ones put forth by the committee.

    “Cannot be accepted politically” cannot be used as a simple justification for the u-turn. It is a consequence of rejection by the electorate based on rational argument, not just emotions.

    • Are you serious? You’re asking for a theoretical justification of something that has been rejected by the electorate? What’s the point? You can justify till the cows come home and still it won’t make a difference, the electorate won’t care, that formula is history.

      Notwithstanding the above, you should know that there is no such thing as a theoretical basis for salary determination. Just like share prices and property prices, there are lots of ways to zero in on the “value” of a job, from both the upper end and lower end, but eventually it all boils down to comps, based on demand and supply and negotiating power.

      Hence to talk about a justified ‘basis’ for someone’s salary is meaningless.

      In fact, in jobs such as these, I would submit that one stops trying to find a ‘basis’ in terms of private sector benchmarks. Just name a number that is generous and which the electorate can accept and get on with it. Frankly, once you get beyond a threshold (say $1m), the number makes very little difference. Because you are not going to get a guy who is 2x as talented when you pay $2m or even $5m. Indeed, if a guy leaves you for $2m when you are paying him $1m, it’s probably better that way. No point keeping somebody who’s only in it for the money.

  6. BlahBlahBlah says:

    The salaries are still excessively high. And besides, with that mentality of yours, then other democracies would have a single dominant party system today as well. BUT THEY OBVIOUSLY DON’T.

  7. Pingback: Daily SG: 05 Jan 2012 « The Singapore Daily

  8. Jack says:

    ‘ We will stop having million-dollar ministers ‘
    Do look at the figures again after the generous cut. Even a junior minister will be a millionaire
    in less than 2 years. The cut is just symbolic and never sincere. A minister of state still gets more
    than POTUS? What a joke!
    You want more people to take up politics without the need to adequately compensating them?
    Then free up the political sphere and more capable people will join.
    Only difference is its not going to be your party.

  9. Remy says:

    Generally, even after all the cuts, the pay is still very high.

    Given all the problems that surface from the GE until now, 35% to 50% of the salary cut is consider insufficient.

    Minister and CEO should take responsible and resign from their position. If not they shold go for another round of hafty pay cut.

  10. mymoney says:

    The salary is of course still radiculously high in terms of – risk & responsibility that one who is paid so much has to bear in the corporate world. Does the minister got to resign when things go wrong? Is it of high-risk in terms of nearer to the door when things go wrong? High responsibility? Does saying ‘sorry’, ‘I take full responsibility’, comes with any price? Even lower-paid politicians in other countries take fuller responsibility in this sense. In terms of special skills needed like doctors? Didn’t it look like any tom-n-dick-or-harry can do the job, if any minister can be swapped to any portfolio? (Of course, no denial of some communication, leadership skills needed – soft skills, nothing specifically-trained). And so where does this budget cut in salary go to? Will we get tax less? Or is it something like the LTC fine against SBS/SMRT where the money goes from their left pocket to their right pocket?

    • Thanks for comments. I see the emotions showing. Yes, it’s important but watch out for them as they can blind you.

      For instance, accountability doesn’t come from high salary. Look at other countries, why their ministers resign to take responsibility even without high salaries. Here’s a clue: it has something to do with the electorate.

      • icedwater says:

        Let’s not forget resignation isn’t the only way to show responsibility. In fact, leaving the mess behind for someone else to clean is shirking responsibility … making mistakes is human, but people should learn from their mistakes and prevent them from recurring.

      • Thanks for comments. Politically, in real democracies, the only way to take responsibility for a big boo-boo is resignation. If you don’t want to resign, you can impeached or dismissed. Your choice.

  11. Sgcynic says:

    Theoretical justifications? Aren you saying that this review committee has put forth theoretical justifications?

  12. bluex says:

    You make it sound like salary was the only issue that the opposition talked about. Hope Singaporeans are not as simple minded as you.

  13. bluex says:

    Another thing. 50% cut is for president only. Cut for PM and others is much less. Your writing is downright dishonest.

  14. Sgcynic says:

    Not justifying the previous basis. Debunking it.

  15. xgeesk says:

    Feel free to correct whatever nonsense I happen to make.

    Just curious, how will the opposition be able to get enough local talent to be a sizeable force? And given so much public dissent about PAP and other things they are meddling with, would any reasonable person want to join politics?

    There needs to be a change in the local government and other ministries, but until the people who provide brilliant solutions and suggestions actually step into politics instead of writing long facebook posts or wordpress comments, this isn’t going to happen.

    • Thanks for comments. The talent will join the non-pap parties when they can present a compelling vision for joining them. I believe that vision is not to be somebody’s checker and balancer for the next 100 years.

      The “dissent” pap is facing comes from its bull-headed policies and mixing of politics and business. Reasonable people will see that if they swear to do the right thing for the electorate, rather than their own thing, they will have the support of the population.

  16. Hans says:

    Sent: Friday, January 6, 2012 2:58 PM
    Subject: Singapore Leaders Cut Pay, But Win Few Hearts (Wall St Journal)
    January 6, 2012, 10:46 AM SGT

    Singapore Leaders Cut Pay, But Win Few Hearts
    By Chun Han Wong and Shibani Mahtani
    European Pressphoto Agency

    Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong listens to a statement in
    Singapore in June 2011. Singapore leaders may be slashing sizeable
    chunks off their world-beating salaries, but it appears they aren’t
    winning the hearts of the many critics who want their government to do
    more to honor its promises of change.

    The ruling People’s Action Party this week accepted proposals to slash
    ministers’ million-dollar wages by about 30% annually from 2010
    levels, hoping to placate residents who accuse Singapore’s longtime
    political masters of shortchanging taxpayers on the quality of
    governance – especially in the face of a widening gap between rich and
    poor, rising living costs, and immigration pressures in the

    But the move, the latest in a series of PAP remedies aimed at
    recouping support lost in a bruising general election last May, has
    attracted more brickbats than plaudits so far. Many citizens have
    expressed reservations, even derision, about the depth of Prime
    Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s reform pledges, saying the PAP hasn’t
    departed from its philosophy of elite governance, in which it
    emphasizes paying top dollar for top talent.

    Opposition parties led the rhetorical assault. The Reform Party pulled
    no punches, saying the government “may be in danger of scoring an own
    goal,” as the proposed pay structure still offers “obscene” wages and
    could “entrench the public view of ministers as overpaid and the PAP
    leadership as an uncaring elite, out of touch with the needs of the
    majority of Singaporeans.”

    After the cuts, Prime Minister Lee would get about US$1.7 million a
    year – about 40 times Singapore’s gross domestic product per capita in
    real terms. U.S. President Barack Obama earns US$400,000 a year, less
    than nine times his country’s GDP per capita in real terms.

    Observers also criticized the government’s approach to reviewing
    political salaries for being too narrow in scope. By asking how
    ministerial salaries can be more appropriately linked to corporate
    pay, instead of formulating a remuneration policy that can win
    citizens’ support by framing public service as a calling, the
    government was seeking “technical” answers to a “political” question,
    former nominated lawmaker Siew Kum Hong wrote in his blog.

    Singapore officials have defended the salaries as a way to attract
    strong candidates and deter graft.

    Some residents fear that since ministers’ salaries are still being
    pegged to incomes of Singapore’s richest – the new benchmark being the
    median income of the 1,000 top-earning citizens, with a 40% discount
    applied – the pay system could incentivize policy-making that widens
    an already yawning income gap, even though attempts were made to link
    ministers’ bonuses to improvements to the well-being of lower-income

    Local bloggers too joined the chorus of unconvinced voices, mocking
    the cuts as gratuitous gestures that still preserve the place of
    Singapore leaders among the world’s best-paid politicians.

    “With the proposed ministerial pay cuts, our leaders have gone from
    obscenely well-paid to damn well-paid,” said Singapore’s most-read
    blogger, known as “Mr. Brown.”

    Singapore began pegging ministers’ pay to incomes of top corporate
    earners in 1994, on the insistence of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan
    Yew, who believed the policy would draw the best and brightest into
    politics and cut risks of government corruption. Many supporters of
    the policy – including some foreign investors – believe it has played
    a key role in promoting a clean and efficient government, especially
    compared to many other Asian nations.

    Some PAP lawmakers have warned against further pay cuts, including PAP
    junior minister Grace Fu, who said on her Facebook page: “It may not
    be wise to call for the tradeoffs to be tilted further to an extent
    that it dissuades good people from coming forward in future.” But her
    views, following earlier comments on her decision to join politics,
    drew hundreds of critical responses; some alleged her views betray
    ignorance of the concerns of lower-income Singaporeans, and show that
    the PAP hasn’t truly embraced calls for change.

    Such public shows of discontent, analysts say, stem mostly from
    widening perceptions of subpar governance by the party, and a push for
    greater political accountability here, rather than the baser impulse
    of envy.

    “Singaporeans didn’t express huge objections to the salaries, which
    have been around for about twenty years,” said Manu Bhaskaran, an
    academic at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. “One suspects
    that the real issue is not high salaries per se, which
    practical-minded Singaporeans didn’t begrudge for so long, but issues
    related to the delivery of the ‘goods’ Singaporeans desired,” Mr.
    Bhaskaran added.


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  17. Henry says:

    “…And what have they got to show for it?”

    The opposition will not need to do anything. ( for the moment ). All the work is now being done by the electorate. Do you not sense it?

    Regardless of the mechanisim of how the pay is being calculated, pegged etc, I,for one, am not too pleased about their salaries. Perhaps I do not know how much an hour’s work is worth at a Tuesday night meet the member sessions or an hours work sitting in Paliarment one cosy afternoon.

    The Government of the day has failed in delivering the goods to the majority. The upper crust have no problems and are delighted at the current status quo. What ARE the goods, then? This where they have failed. And the electorate grows even more unfriendly.

    The opposition will seize this opportunity to gain more support… and without a word, they have it.

    • Thanks for comments. What “work” are you referring to, which the electorate is doing?

      Pressing the pap to reduce minister salaries? Pressing the pap to build more hdb flats? Reduce immigration?

      That’s fine, it’s the pap bending over to accommodate the electorate, but what does this get the opposition?

      10 years from now, what do you think will be the role of the “opposition”? To “check and balance” the pap govt? What about 20 years from now? 100 years from now? Still the same?

      If so, the “opposition” will have nothing to show for what happened in 2011. Because they will still be playing second fiddle to a Pap govt.

      That’s what I mean.

      • Henry says:

        “work” refers to that of Ministers, MPs.. but that is another issue.
        The present Government has failed to satisfy the largest base of its voters.

        The opposition is correct in adopting the role of “checker & balancer”.

        The PAP is an intrinsic part of Singapore and cannot be removed. At least not for a very long time.. though it can evolve into another creature. Having created so many institutions & a way of life, they are fully entrenched.

        So what then? The opposition will offer the electorate a voice, an irritant, an informed and credible counter view of what the incumbent insists on pursuing. Expose them for all their ills as they (oposition ) have done in recent times.

        The PAP’s challenge to the opposition that they form the next government is a hollow one, and I am very, very pleased that the opposition declined it.

        This will be the genre of politics in Singapore. An opposition that critiques and counters.
        Is this effective? Yes! even if the Governement bends yet not break or change the rules.

        Politics is a process. Discovery leads to conquests, a little at a time.

        And the more I read and listen, the more I understand, and more I will vote against the PAP.

      • Thanks for comments. I respect that point of view, even if I disagree. I don’t think pap has to be kicked out of every single institution they created just so we can have a change. It’s enough that they lose power in Parliament,

        You asked a question of where the talent to join the “opposition” will come from. My answer is the real talent will not come until the “opposition” believes more than checking and balancing. Think about it: if you are some high-achiever, why would you be content being somebody’s checker and balancer for the next 20 years?

        Hence my view that if the other parties refuse to challenge pap for power, then then will only attract mediocre “talent”, and they will never advance in politics.

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