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