Why PAP Needs High Minister Salaries

It seems few people are pleased with the Ee Report. Those who called for cuts say it’s not enough. On the other hand, there are PAP ministers like Grace Fu who say it’s too much.

But few critics understand why PAP wants– no, needs— to pay ministers high salaries.

The reason is simple. PAP needs high minister salaries for its political system to survive.

Think about how a normal political system in a democratic country is supposed to work.

Parties are supposed to contest elections, form majorities (by coalition if necessary) and then appoint ministers from whomever are elected MP’s. Parties are not supposed to shoo-in ministers even before the first vote is cast.

In fact, in most countries, politicians are career politicians, they spend a whole life in politics and they become ministers only after several terms as MP. Meaning they work their way from the ground up, they understand the people’s issues very well.

PAP’s system is totally different.

At every General Election, it introduces new candidates from both the public and private sector with office-holder “potential” and gets them elected via GRC’s, then quickly appoints them as ministers.

That’s why PAP put in this system of high ministerial pay, because it wants to parachute high-flyers straight in, but these high-flyers won’t come unless it is financially worthwhile for them.

Think about it: if you’re earning $3-5m a year as a banker, doctor, perm-sec, BG, etc., would you want to leave your high-paying job to join the PAP if the pay is less than $1m? If you didn’t have a guarantee that you will not only be elected, but that you would be given a minister post, would you quit your high-flying high-paying civil service job just weeks before the Election, to join the party and stand on a PAP ticket?

So PAP needs this system of high ministerial pay, because they have turned the political system on its back. Instead of grooming a set of career politicians, PAP just keeps parachuting high-flyers from nowhere into office.

Singaporeans have to ask themselves: is this the right kind of political system? Is this what we really want? Ministers who have no feeling, no empathy with the people, who are basically just headhunted to do a job. Or do we want a system where ministers work their way from MP’s, where they earn their stripes.

If you understand this, you will see why PAP cannot pay ministers less than $1m.

I am personally not in favor of such a system, where the elites from nowhere just come swooping in as ministers.

I prefer a system of career politicians where people make a career choice to become MP’s right from the start of their careers, and become ministers only after they have earned their stripes.

Such a system demands people who are serious about politics. Like those who choose to be firemen, social workers or soldiers, such a commitment to politics cannot be driven by money, but by passion and desire to serve.

I don’t care if that means Vivian B or Ng Eng Hen will quit and return to the private sector. I’m not looking for people who want to make millions and billions. 

I want people like Show Mao who understand that there is more to life than making money. There is the element of social service, national service and patriotic duty.

I want people who are willing to dedicate themselves to politics right from the start, not complain about the sacrifices they had to make to enter politics. This necessarily means that they have no private sector career option to compare to, and thus no basis for saying I should be paid as much as a top lawyer, banker or heart surgeon.

Parliament will be debating a system of ministerial pay that hopefully will survive the fall of the PAP. High ministerial pay is designed to support PAP’s system of parachuting top private/public sector earners into power. Once the PAP falls, hopefully that system will fall with them. We will then hopefully have MP’s who will have worked their way from the ground up who will be humble and hardworking ministers. Once that happens, it will not be appropriate to pay ministers millions a year.

Singaporeans must make a choice. I believe the practice of parachuting is wrong. It is precisely because this practice is wrong, that it creates the wrong kind of politics and assumes PAP can continue to parachute such people at every election, that this whole ministerial pay concept must be stopped.

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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41 Responses to Why PAP Needs High Minister Salaries

  1. Daniel Yap says:

    Nevertheless, it still raises the question of what competency is for a politician. If you have career politicians, what exacts skills are they developing? Governance? Showmanship? Negotiation? Ministry-specific knowledge?

    The downside for having career politicians is that the system may begin to produce showmen and promise-makers (not to say that the current system doesn’t). I think we are looking for a path that will produce qualified, experienced and passionate individuals.

    It seems that the PAP decided that a politician was a generalist whose skills could be moved between ministries at will. This seems to fly in the face of common sense – why would the health minister make an effective defence minister tomorrow? The skill sets only overlap partially.

    • Thanks. That is what PAP decided, it’s not what I signed up for.

      There are professional firemen, professional soldiers, professional actors. Why do you doubt the value of professional politicians? Why do you think that will just produce showmen?

      If you examine politicians worldwide, you’ll find a lot of them tend to be ex-lawyers (eg Obama, Clinton) or ex-career career civil servants. In other words, they have spent a life in public service, they are good at negotiation and compromise, they are very sharp-eyed, they have good knowledge of the law, which is after all what Parliament is set up for– to pass laws which are a compromise of all parties’ interests.

      • Chow Chee Whye says:

        LKY is a lawyer… While I sympathize with the tone of your article, I’m not sure whether I want to have career politicians to govern Singapore. In Australia, we have precisely that – esp. in the Labor Party – where most of the politicians were career politicians ever since their high school or Uni days, they know how to sweet talk their way into power, but they are basically incompetent at managing anything other than their own career. Seriously, the Australian economy is doing well in spite of the failings of its politicians- thanks to the high demand for its natural resources. Now what I find bemusing is that with such high salaries we can still appoint people like Tin Pei Ling, Ho Ching, and Ms Saw and have a remarkable tolerance for their under-performances. No offense to women.

      • Thanks for comments. High salaries do not apply to MP’s like Tin Pei Ling. If she was any kind of “talent”, she’d have been highlighted as a “potential” office holder at her coming out party.

        As for Saw and Ho Ching, those are not political appointments. Saw was just a manager who was brought in to boost SMRT’s revenue. She did that. Ho Ching is a different kettle of fish.

    • Daniel Yap says:

      I think it has the potential to produce showmen because it happens in other countries. Granted, you also get good politicians in other countries, but I think you are looking through rose-tinted glasses if you think there will be no drawbacks to your proposed system.

      I think that your stated purpose of parliament is also narrow – representation is indeed a big part of the job, but if one is also to be appointed to the cabinet, then we can’t just have lawyers and civil servants as MPs.

      Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not against career politicians (if you read me right), but I am stressing that such a system, if similarly (poorly) managed, will have serious drawbacks as well.

      • Thanks. But is it necessarily worse than PAP basically assuming the it has the right to co-opt anyone it thinks has potential into Cabinet, with elections a mere formality? Are we running a democracy or are we running an AGM to elect directors?

        Why do you assume such a system of career politicians will be poorly managed? Is the PAP system not poorly managed as well, with major incidents like Mas Selamat, foreigners, overcrowding, SMRT fiasco, Temasek losses, etc?

        PS I did not say representation is the job of an MP. I said lawmaking is the job.

  2. DT says:

    I followed a link to your post. While I understand your points, I disagree with the general sweep. I’ve spent a decade in Japan, and the problems of having a system of career politicians are readily apparent here — an over-focus on local interests over the national, a lack of experience and expertise especially on more complex issues, and an overly-narrow pool of human resources from which to draw Ministers. The pool is further narrowed because the more capable opt out of the political arena. In Japan the situation has been made worse by politicians smoothing the path for their childrens’ entry into politics, leading to political dynasties. There is ample evidence around the world of careers politicians making politics their primary business rather than actually solving problems. I don’t question the ideal of having talented, impassioned people assume positions of responsibility for little pay, but having a system of career politicians won’t guarantee this outcome.

    • Thanks. I agree with your points, but don’t you think we also have political dynasties here? That is not the point of my post. My point is simple: PAP has made politics a headhunting exercise, it’s no different from companies hiring CEO, CFO, CIO, Director of Sales, etc. In other words, they are just picking guns-for-hire from the market.

      Because this is no different from companies headhunting, they have to pay market rates. These guys never wanted to join the party, and they will never come until you pay them what they ask.

      Hence, if you say minister pay must come down, you are by definition rejecting the pap system. You can’t have it both ways. You want the pap-style system, you got to pay the price. If you don’t want to pay the price, you cannot have the pap system.

      So which system do you want?

      Ps I did not ask people to assume important positions for little pay. Indeed, I have not commented on what the right number should be. My belief is that people should be paid enough for them to be comfortable, but that is all. There is no need to obsess over pegs or benchmarks. There will be enough good people once we pay above a threshold amount. The marginal utility of paying beyond that is questionable. In other words, if I pay $1m, I will be able to get enough good candidates. I will not get someone twice as good by paying $2m or even $5m. Indeed, the marginal risks increase significantly. The more I pay, the more it attracts the flies and the vultures. Rather than seeing it as serving the country, we will get people who keep thinking how much they could make in the private sector. That I don’t want.

      • DT says:

        By the way, I agree with your last point. There are diminishing returns to higher pay, and this problem is not unique to Singaporean politics but also to large enterprises. But that does not imply the reverse — that you will certainly get better people if you pay much less and move to a system of career politicians as Ministers.

        You might find this interesting in the above context: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

      • My point does not need to be justified by pay.

        I can certainly debate the merits of the us system with you when I’m free. Every administration will call distinguished individuals to serve in its cabinet. People like Henry Paulson are already multi-millionaires but they put aside their careers for four or eight years so they can serve the country as Secretary of the Treasury, Defense, etc. The pay they get for their cabinet post is a pittance compared to what they earned. And 4-8 years is a huge opportunity cost for them. In fact, some even donate their entire Cabinet pay to charity. So why do they do it?

        But there’s no point debating it now unless the constitution is changed. We are in a parliamentary democracy, only elected MP’s can become ministers.

        So what is your position? Pap-style, or do it like other democracies.

        If the former, please let me hear you say you support high minister pay.

      • As in any enterprise, the key is to find the sweet spot, pay too little, you get monkeys; pay too much, you get opportunists.

      • DT says:

        Ok here it comes — I support high ministerial salaries, but not pegged to the national high water mark. I also would of course like good people who deserve their salaries. Instead, where I live now (Japan), my tax money is paying for a collective of mediocre career politicians, and of course my tax rate is several times what is typical in Singapore.

      • Thanks. I understand your post.

        I’ve heard people say that, I support high minister pay, but I want them to produce results. According to them, “Extraordinary pay for extra ordinary pple with extra ordinary abilities, yes. Extraordinary pay for mediocre pple…. No.”

        They miss the point.

        Pay scales are set for a job role. Not for a person.

        In fact, the pay must be set assuming the role is filled by an average performer. And it is based on what an average performer who fulfills the reqmts of the job should get.

        Because once the pay scale is set, every Tom dick and Harry will get that pay, regardless of his qualifications, regardless of whether he was a superstar banker or lawyer prior to his appointment. In fact, if you think forward to the day when pap is out of power, the same pay you set now will be set for low thia kiang or Sylvia lim or (heaven forbid) Kenneth jeyaretnam if they are appointed ministers in a coalition govt. You cannot then say, low is just a chinese teacher, not an eye surgeon, how can he earn millions? The system of pay is set by appt, it cannot differentiate who is holding the appt.

        So how can one say, I agree to the high pay only if you supply superstars? No one can guarantee superstars. Not even pap.

        So do you still want to set such high pay, and say that it is the only way to attract superstars?

        One way to reward superstars, who by definition are outperformers, is to put a huge bonus component for outperformance. That way you avoid the pay high $$$ and still get monkeys syndrome. You pay enough for the minister to have a comfortable lifestyle. Frankly, $500k a year is more than enough for any minister to have a decent life, even if he failed to meet all his kpi’s. Then you have a large bonus component, which should be presented to parliament for approval every year, that ministers are entitled to when they hit their targets.

      • By the way, I see nothing wrong with political dynasties per se. In the us, you have families like the Kennedys who have been senators for generations. You also have military families which have served the country with distinction for generations. They have fought in every war since the Civil War, and they proudly send their children to military cadet school.

        These are patriots.

        Rather than choose a career in banking, in industry, those families choose to serve the country as senators, as congressmen, as military officers, as policemen etc generation after generation.

        So I see nothing wrong with political dynasties. Of course, some dynasties an become corrupt, intoxicated with power, but it is the exception that proves the rule.

  3. DT says:

    I’m suggesting that there is nothing wrong with headhunting good Ministers, and the wider the pool the better. In the US system, Cabinet Ministers can be appointed from outside the political class without having to be elected (though subject to the check of Congress of course). I think the problem is with the selection system and criteria, and the condition of society. If good people with the right balance of idealism, pragmatism and practical experience cannot be induced except by money to work for the common good, it is not a happy day to be sure. But cutting the pay or breaking the system and hoping that good people will turn up to lead the country is wishful thinking. We should rightly celebrate when someone like Show Mao appears, but I don’t think anyone can build a functioning political system (especially in a small country) on the expectation of a regular flow of such individuals. Here’s the challenge — to build a system that assumes the worst of people and limits the potential damage, but can still bring out the best possible outcomes. Singapore may not have the best possible political system or society, but it is hardly the worst. This may not be a fashionable thing to say in the face of idealism, but it is not difficult to demonstrate the point.

    • I disagree it’s wishful thinking. Because I’m not asking every candidate to be another Show Mao.

      You’ve been taught to believe that a system of elites is right. So we have scholars who become civil service high-flyers from the day the graduate, corporates who headhunt all kinds of foreign talents to lead companies, etc.

      I don’t believe in a culture of superstars who parachute in from nowhere to take over a company. Just see what happened to SMRT for instance.

      I’m perfectly fine if we don’t have the very best person money can buy to become ministers.

      I think there are good people in every field, despite the pay. There are good people who want to be soldiers, despite the fact that it will never pay as well as banking. There are good people who want to be cops, firemen, social workers, etc. People who want to serve just because it is what they want to do in life.

      There will also be good people who want to be politicians. They may not be the highest earners in the country, but they are not stupid people, and more importantly, they have the country’s interests at heart.

      Let bankers be bankers. Let lawyers be lawyers. Let doctors be doctors. That’s how they can best contribute to the country. By creating jobs, making business grow, creating opportunities,

      I want people who really want to be politicians to become ministers. I don’t want bankers to become ministers, because their heart is not really in it.

      That’s the difference between our two beliefs. You bought the pap line about why the best and the brightest must be asked to lead the country. I haven’t.

  4. William says:

    The coming GE 2016 will see ministerial salaries a very hot issue as PAP has again failed to understand the ground which the opposition parties did.
    Let PAP digs its own grave with a parliamentary vote of 81-6 come 16/1/12 and approve the White Paper.
    Gerald Ee commented that talents he approached told him not to “ka-chiau” them were not due to salary but that they did not want to be associated with PAP brand per se ! These talented folks really don’t need the large salary if they have the passion to serve.
    Hence this is the major wrong assumption PAP made – that high salary will make it less painful for talents in private sector to cross over to political service under PAP brand !

    This is politics ! GE 2016 will not be a watershed election but an avalanche of political change with PAP trying very hard to hand on to power with an even bigger gen Y voter base !

  5. Gintai says:

    Brilliant! So simply explained even my 14 yr old son can understand! So true and factual! Thank you.

    • Gintai says:

      I would recommend ppl to Jeffrey Archer’s “First Among Equal” – the best political novel where our system of parliament and govt is based! This is exactly what you are saying here!

  6. Sarah says:

    Coming from a European country of ‘career politicians’, I don’t think the Singapore system is that terrible. I can understand why it frustrates voters when politicians earn such amounts of money, but it does kind of help the strategy to get high flyers. I’d rather have those who have knowledge and are able to apply it. Our career politicians do not give a flying f*ck about the country, they don’t have the dedication / passion for the country one would expect either. They don’t get paid as much as Singaporean politicians by FAR, but they don’t even get ten percent done of what gets done here (obviously, a lot more could be done, there always can, but it’s not bad). Yeah, they don’t get that much pay, but they don’t work much for the country either, they’re too busy hanging out with their rich friends from big businesses and securing ‘consulting’ jobs. Or receiving very huge, eh, Christmas gifts from said friends and such. It is really a misconception that career politicians have any more qualifications or passion than people who get into politics the Singaporean way, maybe it’s even the other way round. Singaporean politicians have more time to actually do their job than some of their European counterparts who spend much of their time buddying with seemingly important people and giving highly paid advice. One hand washes the other and such.

    • Daniel Yap says:

      I wouldn’t paint all European politicians with the same brush. I suppose the case is also different in different European nations. Having been married to a European for some time and observing their political system, there are also cases of true patriots and butt-kissers, people who want to do what is good and right and others who want to leverage their position for personal gain. There are others still who are naive enough to be taken for a ride by corporate or personal interests, and then have to backtrack on relationships or agreements to maintain their political “cleanliness”.

      There are pros and cons for each system, and I think that what we want to get out of this is how to make Singapore’s system the most effective one for governing Singapore for the good of Singaporeans. It is not a panacea just to import systems or values that work elsewhere, although they serve as a good reminder that there are many other ways to do things effectively… nor ineffectively.

    • Thanks for comments. I understand the angst you have in Europe.

      Would you say that there are good lawyers, and there are bad lawyers? There are also dedicated doctors, and bad doctors? Good nurses as well as bad nurses?

      So why shouldn’t there be good politicians– who actually care about the country– and bad politicians, like you’ve experienced?

      One does not throw out a system just because there are some incompetents in the system.

      For every bad politician you name, I can also cite examples of selfless politicians who gave their all for the country. To use the US as an example, every administration will call distinguished individuals to serve in its cabinet. People like Henry Paulson and Paul O’Neill are already multi-millionaires but they put aside their careers for four or eight years so they can serve the country as Secretary of the Treasury when the President called them to serve. The pay they get for their cabinet post is a pittance compared to what they earned. 4-8 years is a huge opportunity cost for them. In fact, some even donate their entire Cabinet pay to charity. So why do they do it?

      Why go through the pain of Congressional confirmation hearings– when every aspect of your life is scrutinised, every piece of dirty linen is aired, whether you have had any affairs, whether you made any dubious investments, whether you ever employed any illegal Hispanic nannies– is probed and publicly aired?

      Why do they do it? Because they love the country.

      So you have good politicians, you also have bad politicians. Doesn’t mean the system (of having career politicians) is bad. But people have to choose carefully whom they vote into power.

      I think the problems Europe faces are more a general issue with democracy than with who the politicians are. Plainly speaking, democracy requires compromise and consensus. Therefore it produces sub-optimal solutions and even deadlock at times. Critical long-term decisions cannot be made easily because they are not within the term of any one government. There’s not enough political will to make the painful decisions. The electorate prefers to push such decisions to the future, to the next generation. Borrowing is easy, public spending is easy, cutting taxes is easy, raising taxes is difficult, reducing civil service salaries is difficult, reducing welfare benefits is difficult.

      If we take genuine democracy, with genuine broad-based representation, I don’t think any system– whether a system of career politicians, or a system of cadres inducted into Cabinet– can solve Europe’s problems. Because the very nature of democracy is that the politicians must listen to the people, and the people are divided and they do not like bitter medicine.

      If you really want to solve Europe’s problems, you may have to look at an approach like China, where someone at the top makes the decisions, and they don’t compromise with the fringe parties.

      Europeans cannot trust such a system, not after what happened in Nazi Germany. But without a strong leader able to make difficult decisions, the problems Europe faces will not go away.

      That’s the weakness of democracy as a whole, not the weakness of career politicians.

      • Sarah says:

        Yeah, sorry, I sound gloomier with regards to my home than I actually am (had just read a particularly aggravating article with regards to some of our highest politicians and ex politicians grossly abusing their office when I was posting here). I completely agree, this is not a reason to discount the system as a whole. And let’s face it, my country is doing comparatively well even amidst global turmoil so it would be unfair of me to say that nothing gets done 🙂 We are just having a few particularly bad years when it comes to corruption and entitlement (some of them are finally going to be tried before a court now, FINALLY, but it’s unfunny to watch how everyone covers each others’ backs), but there have been many dedicated and great decision makers over the years since World War II. And obviously this is true for most countries.

        I am generally an avid supporter of true democracy and a pluralistic party system. I do think the Singaporean system does have its merits, but to be fair, it’s small and it would be difficult if this was a much bigger place with lots more people. It’s also flawed in many aspects. But it’s still young and I think that a lot of signs are already pointing into a direction of it becoming at least a little more dynamic. I’ll be curious to see.

  7. Today’s Singapore faces the problems (local challenges and international competitions) that are complex and multi-faceted. Political landscape from now to next 2 election cycles probably needs to adjust to the urgency of requiring both specialists and generalists, therefore there’s also possibly of having career politicians and parachute brigades, i.e. Airborne Forces and Ground Forces.
    For the sustainability of Singapore in the long round, we need options to gather as many as talents as possible (we don’t have critical mass) , rather stick to one and neglect the others. Airborne Forces (Parachute Brigade) and Ground Forces (Career Politicians) will be able cover the whole battle field [Operation Market Garden] if plan successfully and execute collectively. The combined efforts are better than just rely one type of forces which is so predictably.
    That’s the reason why my last year May blog entry about Political Office Salaries includes full-time EMP. Let the voters to decide the proportion of Airborne Forces “market” and Ground Forces “garden”.

    • ecks says:

      Market-Garden was also amongst the biggest failures in WW2. Probably not such a good thing to base your political writing around..

      • ~Market-Garden was also amongst the biggest failures in WW2.~
        True, but not to forget we could learn the lesson and adjusted it to create sucessful formula. Just rely on Parachute Brigade we are lacking Career Polticians to rally and mobilise the people. Just rely on Career Politicians we lack (e,g,) expertise in international exposure to safeguard our national interestes.
        CSM could be regarded as Parachute Brigade-turned Career Politicians.
        The emphasise here is not to mention the good points of Operation Market Garden. The focus is on to rely either one (Parachute Brigade or Career Politicians) is not good for the long-term strategically.

  8. The Big C says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful article. I am still surprised that few people have mentioned how the system as it stands is thoroughly corrupt.

    We have a political system as designed by the ruling party that parachutes the captains of industry into top paying jobs while allowing them to maintain their links to industry, including paying directorships. I am not aware of any other democracy that allows this because there is clearly a conflict of interest. These ministers and MP’s then often end up back on the payrolls of industry after they have served their time as ministers or MPs. Industry will pay top dollar for these retired politicians because they bring with them inside knowledge and contacts from within government. It is impossible to construe this as anything other than being thoroughly corrupt. The only people that benefit from this is industry, and the politicians. When a country is run by moneyed interests, the wealthy always do better. It is no surprise then that the nations with the most corporate influence in politics have the highest income disparities. Namely, Singapore and USA.

    Moreover, there is, underlying this, an assumption that somehow the captains of industry (or for that matter of the armed forces and even eye surgeons) are somehow the best people to run government. Again this is rarely questioned, except somewhat implicitly in writings such as this blog. Yet, when you look at mature democracies around the world, you will find that the majority of them are career politicians or civil servants. The reason is that just because you are good at making money for businesses, does not mean that you will be good at everything. The debacle at SMRT is a good example of this. The same would go for good army leaders or eye surgeons. Public service is not the same as business, and mostly because there is big element of altruism in it. You may deride this as idealistic, but if you shoot for the stars, hopefully, you may at least get a good approximation of it.

    I disagree with DT about the assertion that there are not enough capable people to fill the ranks of elected government in Singapore. The growing strength of opposition parties in Singapore is testament to that because we are now seeing truly capable and high calibre individuals making enormous personal sacrifices in order to serve. If they can do it, I cannot see how PAP could fail at that.

  9. 笨蛋 says:

    Vote out PAP in GE2016, Period.

  10. vandalin says:

    as far as I know, people who are already civil servants eg. perm secs and bg don’t have to miove from their portfolios in order to go into politics. wasn’t our dear lee sien loong a bg at the same time he is minister of finance? was our president tony tan CEO temasek holdings at the same time he was a minister? so are they any less dedicated?

    my take is simple. if ministers can take the pay they get, can justify the amt, and have the majority of the people agree, I have no issues. if they can’t, then I question what their value add is so they can justify their pay.

    • You are mistaken. BG is LHL’s reservist title, which he dropped after 50 as his reservist obligation ended. I do not believe Tony Tan was a minister and CEO of Temasek at the same time. Please provide evidence.

      You recall Sim Ann who had to resign from the Civil Service prior to standing for election in May? SDP had objected to her nomination, claiming she was still serving her notice period. This was later found to be incorrect as PSD said she had already served her notice.

      So did Heng Swee Keat, who resigned as MD of MAS before running for election.

      Singapore Civil Service has a rule that civil servants must be “apolitical”. The normal interpretation is that they cannot be members of a political party. Hence any civil servant wishing to run for election under PAP must resign before he can join the party.

      It is obviously a one-way ticket. Once they resign, they can’t just walk back into their old jobs if they lose their election bids.

  11. I find it interesting how easily misunderstandings can occur and be propagated by the less-informed (of the don’t-bother-to-be-informed type of commentators).

    e.g. When Chan CS (Kee chiu) and Tan CJ joined full-time politics as junior ministers, they had to quit from their SAF jobs. That’s why their designations are BG(NS) and MG(NS).

    If you are just an MP, you do not have to quit your job. e.g. Mr Low Thia Khiang, Baey Yam Keng etc. However Tin Pei Ling did so – MP allowance probably >> her previous pay & a job as a consultant requires plenty of travel which would negatively impact her MP portfolio.

    Also, as a civil servant (perm sec etc), you cannot run for political office. One of the popular “work-arounds” for PAP MPs is to be employed by NTUC instead, which is not part of the civil service.

    If you look at many of the PAP ministers, they are appointed to Minister of State (MoS) at a relatively young age (e.g. Vivian B entered politics at 41 yrs old, Ng Eng Hen at age 43, Grace Fu at age 42), “tried and tested” for a few years before they are promoted to full minister or Senior MoS. Chen Show Mao (CSM) quit Davis/Polk etc and joined politics at the age of 50.

    For the sake of argument, let’s assume that they all earned $2 million in the private at the point of entry into politics, though the reality might be marginally different (NEH was reputed to have billed $10 million in his last year as a specialist, I’m pretty sure CSM was in that range as well as a top partner in Davis/Polk). As a new MoS, basic pay (13 months salary) starts around $0.5 million.

    You can do the math… CSM probably out-earned the 3 PAP MoS candidates combined from the age of 42 to 50.

  12. DetachedObserver says:

    A clear minded analysis of the situation. Also consider the PAP’s brand. Be it true or not, people also perceive it as conservative and behaving in a manner which in many other countries would get it labelled as far right. Which naturally restricts the pools it can fish from.

    Many well-educated and successful people (civil servants, lawyers, et al) who received a liberal western education will not even consider joining the PAP. And of course, the PAP will not accept these people as well.

  13. Jazz says:

    You are only partially correct.
    Call it greed, envy or simply they think they deserve the millions. They are in business – GIC, GLC, Temasek. They are involved in business decisions and promotional efforts. Wealth is created. Employees of these companies are paid millions. COEs of businesses, (who succeed because of pro-business govt policies) also made millions. So their rationale (greed) is that they deserve the millions too. Or else why should they put in the effort to create wealth. So, it’s greed and envy.

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  19. PG says:

    I think that most people forget what government members are there for . To run the country to the best of their ability for the citizens .
    Sorry to say that most countries have either governments that are incompetent and oppressive or the real democratic ones spend too much time playing politics and not running countries correctly.

    There is a growing opinion worldwide that politics and politicians have to change , otherwise there
    will be violent reactions from populations . Unfortunately this will not be beneficial for populations as instability will cause big logistical and financial problems ,

    Also there has to be a complete investigation and correction of the world financial system and its players

  20. Singaporean says:

    It was heartened to see so many good comments and opinions about how the system is run in Singapore and how it can be better. There are no foolproof system, only the best which fits the citizen living in their respective nation.
    I’m sure most of the commentary here are made by Singaporean living in this small island or living abroad. Nonetheless, there are also foreigners reading this articles and all of the opinions is both subjective and constructive. You all have also demonstrate your high intellect cognitive skill in debating which is right or which is wrong.
    What I’m trying to say is there is definitely someone in here which is more than capable to serve your respective nation. So why not join a political party or support some NGOs to better your country ? I’m not from any political party, but I would really like to see this types of opinions and perspective debating in Singapore’s parliament.
    If your background is suitable for a life in politics, why not try to do it in your real life, what you are debating here ? Serve your nation, sacrifice necessarily, for the common good.
    This will prove that Singapore is not dearth of talent, which is why the high salary is in place. The very reason the governing party in Singapore substantiating their claim for the exorbitant remuneration they received.

  21. caver38 says:

    trouble is the high-flyers are totally lacking in creativity

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