The ongoing Minister Pay debate has been too focused on benchmarks and pegging– whether we should use the top 1,000 earners or a civil servant salary base for MP allowance which is then rolled up into Ministerial salary.
It’s really comical to see PAP MP’s try to defend high Minister pay by saying things like, “Obama makes US$7.5M in book sales. Or Clinton has made so much $$$ since he left office from speaking engagements.”
What politicians in other countries do once they leave office is not your business, ok? Even serial killers can get book deals and film rights in those countries! How can this be used to defend how much PAP wants to pay ministers? And to put it bluntly, didn’t Lee Kuan Yew write books too? SR Nathan? How much did they make? Should we claw back their books sales from their salaries? What about the amounts PAP Ministers can get after they leave office when they are appointed as board directors and corporate advisors? Shouldn’t we take that into account too?
How lame can you get, PAP?
But the debates in Parliament seem to have missed the point completely. What they seem to have forgotten is that voters aren’t personally affected by how much Ministers are paid. In other words, whether Ministers are paid $1M or $3M, the change in impact on our taxes is marginal. Nor do voters care how much PAP Ministers or even ex-US Presidents make from book sales, speaking engagements, company directorships, etc.
What voters care about is whether their lives are better, AS A RESULT OF YOUR MILLION-DOLLAR SALARIES.
The reason voters are pissed off is because their lives have not got better. And to add insult to inury, PAP Ministers gives all kinds of excuses. “Once in 50-year event”, “Learning Experience”, “Honest Mistake. Let’s Move On”, “It cannot be helped”, “30-year HDB mortgages are affordable”, etc.
They are pissed off because PAP Ministers are not man enough to resign, to take the accountability that comes about with the post.
Now PM Lee says that ministers should be accountable, whatever the pay, but “Singaporeans must evaluate ministers fairly”, and “they cannot expect ministers to never make mistakes.”
“Negligent or dishonest ministers will be sacked but ministers who do not perform well despite their best efforts will be moved to a less demanding portfolio, or, if necessary, phased out discreetly,” he said.
But he added exits are “delicate matters” and “must be handled with dignity and decorously”. Mr Lee said it must not “be turned into a public spectacle, lest it deters even more good people from entering politics”.
Notice that the word “resign” does not appear in PM Lee’s vocabulary. While PM Lee promised to sack negligent or dishonest ministers, I would even go further than that: prosecution is on the cards, especially if it involves criminal negligence or dishonesty. But that’s not the key issue that pisses people off.
The key point is, if your ministers and your government didn’t make people’s lives better, you do not deserve the pay you asked for. If your ministers made serious mistakes, you should just fire them if they didn’t offer their resignation already.
Companies in the private sector do it all the time. That’s why people leave to pursue “personal interests” or “spend more time with their family”. Does that deter people from entering the private sector? So why should it deter people from wanting to become PAP ministers?
Let me be very clear. Justifying high pay is very simple. You don’t need to bring up Obama’s book sales or his use of Air Force One.
You want high pay, you must guarantee good results. If you give mediocre results– give us our money back. And if you screw up, be man enough to resign, and have another more competent person take over.
That’s the way to justify your pay.
The Minister Pay Series