Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Pay cut? Ministers NOT LEADING, they are merely CATCHING UP!!!

Expand Messages
  • (no author)
    Commentary By: Mellanie Hewlitt Source: Singapore Review Date: 2 May 2003. The headlines blared loudly in the 2 May 2003 issues of the Straits Times and
    Message 1 of 8 , May 1, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      Commentary By: Mellanie Hewlitt
      Source: Singapore Review
      Date: 2 May 2003.

      The headlines blared loudly in the 2 May 2003 issues of the Straits Times
      and Business Times "Pay cut? Ministers ready to lead by example: DPM",
      announcing to the entire world this selfless act of leadership by Singapore's
      Ruling Elite.

      In what appeared to be an initial move to reduce severely inflated salaries,
      to more reasonable industry standards, Singapore's Ruling Elite have bowed to
      public pressure and hinted at accepting a pay cut.

      Or have they?

      What exactly does "leading by example" mean? Lets try to put some substance
      behind those brave words. As of last count, average take home pay of a
      Singapore minister was well in excess of SGD100,000/- a month.

      The below table puts things back in proper perspective:
      (these are basic figures as of July 2000 and did not include last year's
      pay hikes or other benefits. Otherwise the updated numbers may well be
      much larger)

      1. Singapore
      Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000 (SGD1,958,000) a year
      Minister's Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to SGD1,458,040)
      a year

      2. United States of America
      President: US$200,000
      Vice President: US$181,400
      Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000

      3. United Kingdom
      Prime Minister: US$170,556
      Ministers: US$146,299
      Senior Civil Servants: US$262,438

      4. Australia
      Prime Minister: US$137,060
      Deputy Prime Minister: US$111,439
      Treasurer: US$102,682

      5. Hong Kong
      Chief Executive : US$416,615
      Top Civil Servant: US$278,538
      Financial Sec: US$315,077

      Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000

      In relative terms, less then 20% of Singaporeans here have take home
      salaries exceeding SGD100,000/- A YEAR.

      In stark contrast, BASIC SALARY FOR A MINISTER STARTS AT
      SGD1,166,844 A YEAR, OR JUST UNDER SGD100,000 A MONTH.

      What these ministers earns in just ONE MONTH exceeds the ANNUAL TAKE HOME
      salary of 95% of Singapore's income earning population. Lets not even begin
      to compare annual packages which will exceed SGD1 million easily.

      With the above numbers and figures now in perspective, it is easier to give
      substance to the words "leading by example". Several facts are noteworthy here;

      a) That the ministerial salaries are grossly out of proportion, even when
      compared with their counterparts in much larger countries (US and UK)
      who have heavier responsibilities.

      b) That these salary reductions were long overdue. In the past, such handsome
      remuneration were “justified” on the back of resounding performance. However,
      Singapore’s economy has been in the doldrums of a recession for several years now
      (with beginnings reaching as far back as the 1997 Asian economic crisis).
      This economic barometer is a rough measure of performance and implies that
      ministerial salaries were due for review at least 2-3 years ago.

      c) That adjustments should be made to bring them back within the industry
      benchmarks. Taking the salary of US vice president as a rule of thumb, the
      percentage for reductions should start at 50% of current pay. Even if a
      Singapore minister takes a 50% pay-cut, he would still be earning more then
      the US vice president.

      d) The percentage reductions should greater then 50% if the intent is to bring
      the salaries within the perspective of Singapore's domestic scene.

      With such inflated figures, it is understandable why the local government
      controlled media (Singapore Press Holdings) have taken pains to exclude
      mention of actual numbers for the world to see. The numbers would be too
      glaring and no amount of window dressing or creative writing could have
      reconciled these numbers with a sane figure.

      It is unlikely that Singapore's Ruling Elite will accept such huge salary
      cuts. Exactly How much and when the ministerial pay-cuts takes effect is
      not revealed. Ask any man on the street and 9 out of 10 responses indicate
      many agree the current ministerial salaries are grossly inflated, especially
      in these lean and difficult times.

      Said a long time forumer from an internet political chat group:
      "First of all the Ministers are NOT leading on pay cut. Workers' salaries
      have been drastically reduced since the beginning of the recession while
      thousands have been unemployed. so the Ministers are NOT LEADING. they are
      only CATCHING UP. And they have several decades to catch up on."

      "Secondly, how much of a pay cut will Ministers take? 10%? 20%? unless its
      a cut that will affect their lifestyles, it is merely symbolic and they
      would still not know what it feels like to be a normal worker. as such, this
      is not Leading by Example. Its just another bogus political propaganda stunt"

      A 29 yr old executive who requested to remain anonymous admitted sheepishly ;
      “The numbers (ministerial salaries) are a national embarrassment really. It puts
      Singapore in a bad light. The rest of Singaporeans really put in an honest days work
      for every penny they earn. And the process for review and approval of the ministerial
      salaries is also a joke. Imagine sitting on the board and approving (on White Paper)
      your own salary increments. Its all a wayang show”.

      This also raises the question as to the authenticity of the actual process for
      review and approval of cabinet minister's salaries. Who decides on these
      numbers? Is there independence and transparency???

      The growing public resentment comes afew months after PM Goh’s careless comments
      that “lay-offs were notall bad” drew a backlash from the public with a flood of e-mails
      being sent to the foreign press to register public indignation.

      Singapore Review welcomes honest feedback on this hotly debated topic.

      You can Send your comments to the editor: Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com

      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      By: Mellanie Hewlitt
      Source: Singapore Review
      Date: 9 April 2003

      Some may have come across a recent article in the Straits Times (attached
      below) concerning the lack of ethics in South Korean civil servants. This
      problem is not confined to Korean State Administration.

      Not too long ago, the term "minister" and "civil servant" conjured up images of
      altruistic, self-sacrificial, nationalistic citizens who dedicated their lives
      to the betterment of the country. "Think not what the country can do for you
      but what you can do for the country", so a wise man once said.

      But Kennedy is no longer around, and how things have changed.

      Today, at least within the limited context of Singapore's state administration,
      these same words have a hollow ring and these once noble aspirations are
      replaced by more monetary and materialistic considerations. Indeed, Singapore
      has the dubious honour of having the world's most highly paid ministers and
      civil servants.

      There have been many reasons cited by the PAP to justify Singapore's
      ministerial salary scales (which are massively out of proportion with their
      counterparts in the rest of the world). The most common reasons were;

      a) That you needed these pay packages to attract the right talent;
      b) The pay packages are justified on the basis of elite performance; and
      c) The packages would ensure there was no corruption within the administration.

      But on closer inspection, none of these assertions hold water.

      What happens when the state implements a recruitment policy that emphasizes
      monetary remuneration above all other fundamentals. In all likely there will be
      a flock of hit-men and mercenaries sending in applications. The very same
      predators that should be avoided in the first place, to guard the very flock of
      sheep in need of protection.

      In a perfect world, ministers and civil servants alike serve the public and are
      officers who look out for and protect public interest. Such public office
      callings require motivation based on moral and ethical values as it is these
      same principles which will shape and mould the very fabric of society (via
      public policy implementations for instance). To accord a monetary base to this
      would seriously erode and corrupt this once noble function.

      Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20, challenged
      Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they understand the
      economic hardships faced by the public. And the over-riding concern is that
      Singapore's Ruling Elite are unable to appreciate the economic hardship that
      the masses face in these tough times.

      Just some weeks ago, blatant remarks by PM Goh that "Lay Offs were good" again
      raised many eyebrows, and lent support to the notion that leaders who earn 10
      times the salary of the average Singaporean will be unable to fully appreciate
      the far-reaching impact and effects their public policy will have on the
      average lay person, who takes home less then 10% of a minister's pay.

      Apart from the above, Singapore’s attempts to apply private sector profit
      driven enterprise to the public sector has attracted much critisicm. The
      feasibility of the entire scheme is questionable. How is the performance of a
      minister or civil servant measured? One logical answer is on the results of
      their policies perhaps, and on the financial performance of Singapore Inc as a
      whole. But Singapore Inc is in the throes of a long drawn recession, and it is
      public knowledge that Singapore’s economic well being is subject largely to
      extraneous factors, which, by the admission of the ministers, are largely
      beyond the control of the government. So wherein lies the justification for
      latest round of promotions (of junior ministers)? Perhaps only God will know.

      The other problem with the notion of pegging ministerial remuneration to
      performance is the yardstick to be used for measuring performance itself. The
      assumption made here is that Singapore is akin to a MNC and its performance can
      be measured in dollars and cents, or at the very lest in absolute numbers.

      This assumption is questionable since many areas of public policy
      implementation are in "soft" "intangible" areas and the direct results of such
      policies cannot be measure in crude numbers. Some examples are health care,
      defense, education and the arts etc. How do you quantify results in these
      industries. How do you reduce the love and joy of discovery of a child to a
      solitary figure? You can’t. And you should not attempt this endeavor for it
      will rob the joy of learning and discovery from the child.

      In short it is an overly simplistic treatment of public service calling. A
      result oriented approach (even when it is not in terms of profit and money)
      cannot be applied to every aspect of state administration. There are reasons
      why certain functions remain forever in the hands of the state (and of
      government). And that maybe because a free-market profit driven (or result
      driven) approach is simply inappropriate.

      Attaching a monetary or numerical attribute to these functions/callings, runs
      the risk or reducing the worth of a human being to mere dollars and cents, or
      to a mere percentage or statistical figure.

      An example of previous errors is in state intervention in the reproduction
      process to boost falling birth rates. As one indignant writer to Singapore
      Review puts it: “Am I to base my preference for love-making and procreation,
      solely on the statistical fact that Singapore as a whole is not replacing
      itself? Is my child to be just a number? Of cause not! I (and my potential
      child) will not be reduced to a mere census figure.”

      The bottom line is that honesty and integrity are trades that cannot be (and
      should not be) bought with money. RESPECT can also be added to this list of
      intangibles which cannot be bought by money. It has to be earned.

      And a leader who cannot live-up to standards that he sets for the rest of his
      people will be accorded little respect. A direct example is a leader who calls
      for the masses to take pay-cuts, be "less choosy" and work longer hours for
      less pay, when the same leader is unwilling to take a similar pay cut himself.
      It is so easy to set high standards within the comfortable refuge of an ivory
      tower, but quite another matter to follow through and lead by example. Few if
      any of the current leaders have this conviction.

      That same leader will be accorded even less respect if he is unable to fulfill
      his promises. Election promises which are still very recent in the minds of
      most Singaporeans.

      Finally, what about the notion that high salaries were required in the public
      service to avoid rampant corruption amongst civil servants (Indonesia is the
      most cited example here). Well, would you also be paying the neighbourhood
      thieves and crooks a "salary" to reduce crime rate? Nonetheless the notion of
      legitimized corruptions is an interesting one which bares further exploration
      in future issues of Singapore Review.


      -----------------------------------------------------------------------
      Opposition Politician Challenges Ministers to Take Pay Cuts
      (AFP)

      22 November 2002

      Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20, challenged
      Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they understand the
      economic hardships faced by the public.

      "Will it be too much to hope, with the news that the recession is cutting
      deeper, that the ministers will at last take a cut in their salaries to
      empathise with the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs or have had to
      take wage cuts," Jeyaretnam said in a statement.

      "Ministers do not have to take wage cuts to keep their jobs whereas workers are
      urged to take wage cuts just to keep earning," he said.

      Jeyaretnam, a thorn in the side of the government when an opposition MP, was
      forced to quit his parliamentary seat last year when declared bankrupt, because
      he could not meet mounting debts resulting from losing defamation suits brought
      by ruling party stalwarts.

      However, he has continued his criticism of government policies from the
      sidelines as the export-oriented Southeast Asian republic went into recession.

      Although there were signs of a recovery in the middle of the year, growth is
      again faltering amid sluggishness in the global economy.

      On Tuesday, the national wage body recommended that wages be frozen or cut to
      save jobs and help companies cope with the slowdown.

      Earlier this week, the government trimmed its 2002 growth forecast to 2.0-2.5
      percent from 3.0-4.0 percent after releasing fresh data showing export growth
      was stalling.

      Amidst these bleak conditions, the government has maintained a stiff upper-lip
      in maintaining (and increasing) remunerations to what are some of the world's
      highets paid civil servants and ministers.

      ----------------------------------------------------------------------------


      Published May 2, 2003

      Pay cut? Ministers ready to lead by example: DPM
      'When all have to take bitter medicine, we must start at the top'

      By VINCE CHONG


      (SINGAPORE) Government ministers here may be in for a wage freeze -
      or even another round of wage cuts - as they lead by example during
      the difficult period caused by the Sars outbreak.

      This was revealed by Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lee
      Hsien Loong in his May Day Rally speech yesterday, as he drove home
      the message that Sars must be contained for the economy to revive.

      Saying that he expects many companies to have quite a tough year
      ahead, Mr Lee noted that it is only realistic for most people to be
      prepared for the wage freeze to continue this year.

      'The NWC (National Wage Council) is currently deliberating on its
      recommendations, especially for those sectors badly hit by the Sars
      outbreak,' he said. 'The government is ready to respond, and in this
      difficult time it will lead by example.

      'When all have to take bitter medicine to get well, we must start at
      the top. This is true both of companies, and more so of the country.
      But even if ministers take a pay cut, companies in distress can only
      be saved if both employers and employees are willing to bear some
      pain to help their company survive and preserve jobs.'

      Singapore's official growth forecast has been lowered to 0.5-2.5 per
      cent for the year, although outside the tourism and travel-related
      sector, Sars has not affected the economy too badly yet, Mr Lee said.

      It was only in March that he told Parliament there would be no more
      wage cuts for ministers, whose monthly pay was reduced by 10 per cent
      in November 2001.

      Together with cuts in yearly payments then, it meant an overall slide
      of about 20 per cent in annual remuneration. The cuts were to have
      lasted a year, but they were extended in November 2002 until December
      this year.

      Ministers also took wage reductions in 1997 and 1998, which were
      restored in January 2000.

      At the Singapore Conference Hall yesterday, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans
      to adapt to the changes brought about by Sars as 'life will not be
      the same again'.

      In addition, the wage system must be reformed, as recommended by the
      Economic Review Committee, so that more companies can survive.
      Government help will be given to reduce the burden on companies, but
      Mr Lee warned that the number of jobs cannot remain the same.

      'Amidst these uncertainties, we must speed up the restructuring of
      our economy, and not slow down,' he said. 'We are subsidising the
      training of workers, to help them sharpen skills or find new jobs.
      But we cannot restore the old status quo.'

      He also cautioned that if Sars is not contained, 'no off-Budget
      package, no amount of subsidies or tax rebates' can help the economy.
      He further warned that retrenchment is 'on the cards' for the
      hospitality industry if the problems do not abate after a few months.

      'Sars is a major long-term disruption to the region and its
      economies,' Mr Lee said. 'Air travel will not be as convenient as
      before. Tourism will take a long time to recover, and may not recover
      to what it used to be.

      'Now when MNCs (multinational corporations) invest, they will
      consider not only cost competitiveness, but also public health, and
      whether they have confidence in the governments.'
    • Mellanie Hewlitt
      Commentary By: Mellanie Hewlitt Source: Singapore Review Date: 2 May 2003. The headlines blared loudly in the 2 May 2003 issues of the Straits Times and
      Message 2 of 8 , May 2, 2003
      • 0 Attachment
        Commentary By: Mellanie Hewlitt
        Source: Singapore Review
        Date: 2 May 2003.

        The headlines blared loudly in the 2 May 2003 issues of the Straits
        Times and Business Times "Pay cut? Ministers ready to lead by example:
        DPM", announcing to the entire world this selfless act of leadership by
        Singapore's Ruling Elite.

        In what appeared to be an initial move to reduce severely inflated
        salaries, to more reasonable industry standards, Singapore's Ruling Elite
        have bowed to public pressure and hinted at accepting a pay cut.

        Or have they?

        What exactly does "Leading By Example" mean? Lets try to put some substance
        behind those brave words. As of last count, average take home pay of a
        Singapore minister was well in excess of SGD100,000/- a month.

        The below table puts things back in proper perspective:
        (these are basic figures as of July 2000 and did not include last year's
        pay hikes or other benefits. Otherwise the updated numbers may well be
        much larger)

        1. Singapore
        Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000 (SGD1,958,000) a year
        Minister's Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to
        SGD1,458,040) a year

        2. United States of America
        President: US$200,000
        Vice President: US$181,400
        Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000

        3. United Kingdom
        Prime Minister: US$170,556
        Ministers: US$146,299
        Senior Civil Servants: US$262,438

        4. Australia
        Prime Minister: US$137,060
        Deputy Prime Minister: US$111,439
        Treasurer: US$102,682

        5. Hong Kong
        Chief Executive : US$416,615
        Top Civil Servant: US$278,538
        Financial Sec: US$315,077

        Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000

        In relative terms, less then 20% of Singaporeans here have take home
        salaries exceeding SGD100,000/- A YEAR.

        In stark contrast, BASIC SALARY FOR A MINISTER STARTS AT
        SGD1,166,844 A YEAR, OR JUST UNDER SGD100,000 A MONTH.

        What these ministers earns in just ONE MONTH exceeds the ANNUAL TAKE HOME
        salary of 80% of Singapore's income earning population. Lets not even begin
        to compare annual packages which will exceed SGD1 million easily.

        With the above numbers and figures now in perspective, it is easier to give
        substance to the words "leading by example". Several facts are noteworthy
        here;

        a) That the ministerial salaries are grossly out of proportion, even when
        compared with their counterparts in much larger countries (US and UK) who
        have far heavier responsibilities.

        b) That these salary reductions were long overdue. In the past, such handsome
        remuneration were "justified" on the back of resounding performance. However,
        Singapore's economy has been in the doldrums of a recession for several years
        now (with beginnings reaching as far back as the 1997 Asian economic crisis).
        This economic barometer is a rough measure of performance and implies that
        ministerial salaries were due for review at least 3-4 years ago.

        c) That adjustments should be made to bring them back within the industry
        benchmarks. Taking the salary of US vice president as a rule of thumb, the
        percentage for reductions should start at 50% of current pay. Even if a
        Singapore minister takes a 50% pay-cut, he would still be earning much more
        then the US vice president.

        d) The percentage reductions should greater then 50% if the intent is to bring
        the salaries within the perspective of Singapore's domestic scene.

        With such inflated figures, it is understandable why the local government
        controlled media (Singapore Press Holdings) have taken pains to exclude
        mention of actual numbers for the world to see. The numbers would be too
        glaring and no amount of window dressing or creative writing could have
        reconciled these numbers with a sane figure and restored credibility.

        It is unlikely that Singapore's Ruling Elite will accept such huge salary
        cuts. Exactly How much and when the ministerial pay-cuts takes effect is
        not revealed. Ask any man on the street and 9 out of 10 responses indicate
        many agree the current ministerial salaries are grossly inflated, especially
        in these lean and difficult times.

        Said a long time forumer from an internet political chat group:
        "First of all the Ministers are NOT leading on pay cut. Workers' salaries
        have been drastically reduced since the beginning of the recession while
        thousands have been unemployed. so the Ministers are NOT LEADING. they are
        only CATCHING UP. And they have several decades to catch up on."

        "Secondly, how much of a pay cut will Ministers take? 10%? 20%? unless its
        a cut that will affect their lifestyles, it is merely symbolic and they would
        still not know what it feels like to be a normal worker. as such, this is not
        Leading by Example. Its just another bogus political propaganda stunt"

        A 29 yr old executive who requested to remain anonymous admitted
        sheepishly ;
        "The numbers (ministerial salaries) are a national embarrassment really,
        because it reflects the underlying materialistic value systems of Singapore
        Ministers. No matter how you look at it, the fact remains that our ministers
        are money faced, and these are supposed to be Singapore's leaders, with value
        systems that Singaporeans should follow."

        "It (the ministerial salaries) puts Singapore in a bad light in the eyes of
        the world. The rest of Singaporeans really put in an honest days work for every
        penny they earn. And the process for review and approval of the ministerial
        salaries is also a joke. Imagine sitting on the board and approving (on White
        Paper)your own salary increments! Its all a wayang show".

        This also raises the question as to the authenticity of the actual process
        for review and approval of cabinet minister's salaries. Who decides on these
        numbers? Is there independence and transparency?

        Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20, 2002 challenged
        Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they understand the
        economic hardships faced by the public. And the over-riding concern is that
        Singapore's Ruling Elite are unable to appreciate the economic hardship that
        the masses face in these tough times.

        The growing public resentment comes afew months after PM Goh's careless
        comments that "lay-offs were notall bad", drew a backlash from the public with
        a flood of e-mails being sent to the foreign press to register public
        indignation.

        Singapore Review welcomes honest feedback on this hotly debated topic.

        You can Send your comments to the editor: Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com

        ----------------------------------------------------------------------



        By: Mellanie Hewlitt
        Source: Singapore Review
        Date: 9 April 2003

        Some may have come across a recent article in the Straits Times
        (attached
        below) concerning the lack of ethics in South Korean civil servants.
        This
        problem is not confined to Korean State Administration.

        Not too long ago, the term "minister" and "civil servant" conjured up
        images of
        altruistic, self-sacrificial, nationalistic citizens who dedicated
        their lives
        to the betterment of the country. "Think not what the country can do
        for you
        but what you can do for the country", so a wise man once said.

        But Kennedy is no longer around, and how things have changed.

        Today, at least within the limited context of Singapore's state
        administration,
        these same words have a hollow ring and these once noble aspirations
        are
        replaced by more monetary and materialistic considerations. Indeed,
        Singapore
        has the dubious honour of having the world's most highly paid
        ministers and
        civil servants.

        There have been many reasons cited by the PAP to justify Singapore's
        ministerial salary scales (which are massively out of proportion with
        their
        counterparts in the rest of the world). The most common reasons were;

        a) That you needed these pay packages to attract the right talent;
        b) The pay packages are justified on the basis of elite performance;
        and
        c) The packages would ensure there was no corruption within the
        administration.

        But on closer inspection, none of these assertions hold water.

        What happens when the state implements a recruitment policy that
        emphasizes
        monetary remuneration above all other fundamentals. In all likely
        there will be
        a flock of hit-men and mercenaries sending in applications. The very
        same
        predators that should be avoided in the first place, to guard the
        very flock of
        sheep in need of protection.

        In a perfect world, ministers and civil servants alike serve the
        public and are
        officers who look out for and protect public interest. Such public
        office
        callings require motivation based on moral and ethical values as it
        is these
        same principles which will shape and mould the very fabric of society
        (via
        public policy implementations for instance). To accord a monetary
        base to this
        would seriously erode and corrupt this once noble function.

        Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20,
        challenged
        Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they
        understand the
        economic hardships faced by the public. And the over-riding concern
        is that
        Singapore's Ruling Elite are unable to appreciate the economic
        hardship that
        the masses face in these tough times.

        Just some weeks ago, blatant remarks by PM Goh that "Lay Offs were
        good" again
        raised many eyebrows, and lent support to the notion that leaders who
        earn 10
        times the salary of the average Singaporean will be unable to fully
        appreciate
        the far-reaching impact and effects their public policy will have on
        the
        average lay person, who takes home less then 10% of a minister's pay.

        Apart from the above, Singapore's attempts to apply private sector
        profit
        driven enterprise to the public sector has attracted much critisicm.
        The
        feasibility of the entire scheme is questionable. How is the
        performance of a
        minister or civil servant measured? One logical answer is on the
        results of
        their policies perhaps, and on the financial performance of Singapore
        Inc as a
        whole. But Singapore Inc is in the throes of a long drawn recession,
        and it is
        public knowledge that Singapore's economic well being is subject
        largely to
        extraneous factors, which, by the admission of the ministers, are
        largely
        beyond the control of the government. So wherein lies the
        justification for
        latest round of promotions (of junior ministers)? Perhaps only God
        will know.

        The other problem with the notion of pegging ministerial remuneration
        to
        performance is the yardstick to be used for measuring performance
        itself. The
        assumption made here is that Singapore is akin to a MNC and its
        performance can
        be measured in dollars and cents, or at the very lest in absolute
        numbers.

        This assumption is questionable since many areas of public policy
        implementation are in "soft" "intangible" areas and the direct
        results of such
        policies cannot be measure in crude numbers. Some examples are health
        care,
        defense, education and the arts etc. How do you quantify results in
        these
        industries. How do you reduce the love and joy of discovery of a
        child to a
        solitary figure? You can't. And you should not attempt this endeavor
        for it
        will rob the joy of learning and discovery from the child.

        In short it is an overly simplistic treatment of public service
        calling. A
        result oriented approach (even when it is not in terms of profit and
        money)
        cannot be applied to every aspect of state administration. There are
        reasons
        why certain functions remain forever in the hands of the state (and of
        government). And that maybe because a free-market profit driven (or
        result
        driven) approach is simply inappropriate.

        Attaching a monetary or numerical attribute to these
        functions/callings, runs
        the risk or reducing the worth of a human being to mere dollars and
        cents, or
        to a mere percentage or statistical figure.

        An example of previous errors is in state intervention in the
        reproduction
        process to boost falling birth rates. As one indignant writer to
        Singapore
        Review puts it: "Am I to base my preference for love-making and
        procreation,
        solely on the statistical fact that Singapore as a whole is not
        replacing
        itself? Is my child to be just a number? Of cause not! I (and my
        potential
        child) will not be reduced to a mere census figure."

        The bottom line is that honesty and integrity are trades that cannot
        be (and
        should not be) bought with money. RESPECT can also be added to this
        list of
        intangibles which cannot be bought by money. It has to be earned.

        And a leader who cannot live-up to standards that he sets for the
        rest of his
        people will be accorded little respect. A direct example is a leader
        who calls
        for the masses to take pay-cuts, be "less choosy" and work longer
        hours for
        less pay, when the same leader is unwilling to take a similar pay cut
        himself.
        It is so easy to set high standards within the comfortable refuge of
        an ivory
        tower, but quite another matter to follow through and lead by
        example. Few if
        any of the current leaders have this conviction.

        That same leader will be accorded even less respect if he is unable
        to fulfill
        his promises. Election promises which are still very recent in the
        minds of
        most Singaporeans.

        Finally, what about the notion that high salaries were required in
        the public
        service to avoid rampant corruption amongst civil servants (Indonesia
        is the
        most cited example here). Well, would you also be paying the
        neighbourhood
        thieves and crooks a "salary" to reduce crime rate? Nonetheless the
        notion of
        legitimized corruptions is an interesting one which bares further
        exploration
        in future issues of Singapore Review.


        ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        -
        Opposition Politician Challenges Ministers to Take Pay Cuts
        (AFP)

        22 November 2002

        Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20,
        challenged
        Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they
        understand the
        economic hardships faced by the public.

        "Will it be too much to hope, with the news that the recession is
        cutting
        deeper, that the ministers will at last take a cut in their salaries
        to
        empathise with the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs or
        have had to
        take wage cuts," Jeyaretnam said in a statement.

        "Ministers do not have to take wage cuts to keep their jobs whereas
        workers are
        urged to take wage cuts just to keep earning," he said.

        Jeyaretnam, a thorn in the side of the government when an opposition
        MP, was
        forced to quit his parliamentary seat last year when declared
        bankrupt, because
        he could not meet mounting debts resulting from losing defamation
        suits brought
        by ruling party stalwarts.

        However, he has continued his criticism of government policies from
        the
        sidelines as the export-oriented Southeast Asian republic went into
        recession.

        Although there were signs of a recovery in the middle of the year,
        growth is
        again faltering amid sluggishness in the global economy.

        On Tuesday, the national wage body recommended that wages be frozen
        or cut to
        save jobs and help companies cope with the slowdown.

        Earlier this week, the government trimmed its 2002 growth forecast to
        2.0-2.5
        percent from 3.0-4.0 percent after releasing fresh data showing
        export growth
        was stalling.

        Amidst these bleak conditions, the government has maintained a stiff
        upper-lip
        in maintaining (and increasing) remunerations to what are some of the
        world's
        highets paid civil servants and ministers.

        ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      • Eric Ellis
        Commentary: An old article that is re-circulated in light of current debate on ministerial salaries, illustrating how events and facts are often manupulated
        Message 3 of 8 , May 3, 2003
        • 0 Attachment
          Commentary: An old article that is re-circulated in light of current
          debate on ministerial salaries, illustrating how events and facts
          are often manupulated and distorted by Singapore's government
          controlled and propaganda ridden media.

          Climate control in the Singapore Press
          by Eric Ellis

          The Australian, June 21, 2001
          I'm sitting in the tiny office of Cheong Yip Seng, editor-in-chief of
          Singapore's The Straits Times. And he's waxing lyrical about the
          paper and its contribution to the tiny South-East Asian nation that
          he's seen leap from Third World slum to First World wonder.

          Cheong, 57, has been with the paper since 1963. He's proud of the
          paper and its contribution to modern Singapore. And he's proud, too,
          of the former intelligence operatives in his newsroom.

          There's Chua Lee Hoong, the ST's most prominent political columnist.
          She might be Singapore's Maureen Dowd, except The New York Times's
          Dowd didn't work with the secret police for nine years. There's Irene
          Ho on the foreign desk. She was also an "analyst" with Singapore's
          intelligence services. So, says Cheong, was Susan Sim, his Jakarta
          correspondent.

          And there's Cheong's boss, Tjong Yik Min. From 1986 to 1993, Tjong
          was Singapore's most senior secret policeman, running the much feared
          Internal Security Department, a relic of colonial Britain's
          insecurities about communism in its Asian empire. Now Tjong is a
          media mogul, the executive president of SPH, Singapore's virtual
          print media giant, which controls all but one of the country's
          newspapers.

          I ask the affable Cheong, as the "journalist's journalist" he says he
          is, if he's comfortable having such people in powerful positions on
          his editorial staff and, indeed, running the company. "Why not?" he
          beams. "These guys have good analytical minds . . . they are all
          kindred spirits."

          What's wrong with this picture? For many Singaporeans, nothing. After
          42 years of comfortable living in a near one-party state, and a
          wealthy one at that, it's what you've come to expect.

          Walls may not have ears in Singapore, but many locals aren't fully
          convinced they don't. And so they've affected this curious
          idiosyncrasy, which I call the Singapore Swivel.

          I've seen it constantly in the two years I've been based here. It
          happens when discussions graduate from small talk to opinions. The
          interviewee goes "off-the-record", the voice lowers to a whisper, and
          the head slowly turns left-right-left-centre, scanning the location,
          checking who's within earshot. The Swivel speaks to the probably
          unfounded suspicion that the "wired island" is monitoring your
          activities.

          Some Singaporeans talk of their country's "climate of fear", more
          charitably described as a "contract" with their leaders: keep our
          economy soaring and we won't challenge the restrictions imposed on
          our civil liberties.

          Step out of line in Singapore and you will be politely requested by
          the regime to step back. Do it repeatedly and openly and be prepared
          for the state machinery to crank into action against you, as it did
          in 1987 against lawyer Teo Soh Lung and businessman Chew Kheng Chuan.
          They were among the 22 Singaporeans detained, some beaten and
          tortured, by Tjong's ISD for being suspected "Marxists" – a charge
          roundly denied and one from which even the Government has backed
          away.

          Teo and Chew were held without trial for more than two years, often
          in solitary confinement, in a cell their captors called the "Shangri-
          La suite" in a sardonic tribute to Singapore's famous five-star
          hotel. A slight, 51-year-old lawyer who keeps a poster of Martin
          Luther King Jr on her office wall, Teo remembers Tjong as "Mr Beady
          Eyes".

          "He was a sneering character; he had very shifty eyes," she
          recalls. "He never beat me himself . . . I disliked him intensely,
          and I'm sure the feeling was mutual."

          Independent Singapore's first Harvard College graduate, Chew, 43, has
          a different sense of Tjong. He quite liked him. "I saw him probably
          20 times during my detention," remembers Chew, now a successful
          businessman and chairman of The Substation, one of Singapore's few
          forums for alternative theatre. "He was always quite polite. Tjong
          seemed to take a shine to me. I think he was intrigued by me, wanted
          to know what made me tick.

          "I think he was baffled by how someone who'd been to Harvard could
          possibly be in this situation. I found him a lonely man, a somewhat
          solitary person."

          That Chew and Teo can talk openly about Tjong and their ISD
          experiences shows how far Singapore has liberalised in recent years.
          The Government says it is committed to openness and airing contrary
          views. But the message seems to be taking its time to sink in at the
          ST.

          Take the way it dealt with a hot local topic recently – ministerial
          salaries. On June 29 last year, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister,
          Lee Hsien Loong (Lee Kuan Yew's eldest son) announced massive pay
          rises for cabinet ministers. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's annual
          salary would jump 14 per cent to $2.25 million, or $187,000 a month,
          five times that of the US president.

          On May 11, six weeks earlier, the independent Hong Kong-based think-
          tank, the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, released a survey
          of expatriate businessmen on political leadership in Asia. The survey
          ranked Singapore as Asia's most capable government. The findings were
          carried by the major wire agencies on May 12, in Hong Kong by Agence
          France-Presse and by the Reuters bureau in Singapore.

          In Singapore the story didn't appear in the ST until June 26, when it
          was splashed across the front page headlined "S'pore Govt rated top
          in Asia". Three days later the Government announced the ministerial
          pay increases. That same day, the ST carried another excerpt of the
          same PERC report, headlined "PERC: Govt's economic policy makes the
          difference".

          From June 30 to July 7, as controversy raged in Singapore salons
          about whether already well-rewarded ministers deserved their
          increased salaries, the ST evoked PERC's rosy view of Singapore's
          Government another four times.

          Is it just a coincidence that a six-week-old report became front-page
          news in Singapore just days before the Singapore Government justified
          its massive pay rise?

          "If you want to arrange the facts in that way, I suppose that you do
          have a case," says editor-in-chief Cheong. "But I'm a newspaper and I
          must accept information that is given to me and then I make a
          judgment whether I want to use or not use it."

          Other times news judgment can appear downright wacky. In early 1999,
          Lee Kuan Yew wished to The Wall Street Journal that someone would
          invent air-conditioned underwear – because that way "everyone can
          then work at his optimum temperature and civilisation can spread
          across all climates".

          A news editor on a mainstream Australian newspaper might hand the
          item to a wry columnist. The medical writer might consult some
          physicians as to whether the nation was in good hands. And the
          science writer might ring boffins to see if boreal boxers were
          possible.

          Not at the ST, which ran it as a straight story on page one. A month
          later, it published a 1455-word feature quoting local academics and
          engineers hot for the idea – with an illustration of how a "cold
          suit" might work.

          Lee is famously intelligent and while refrigerated undies are a
          fantastic notion, anything's possible. The cooling Calvins inspired a
          book The Air-Conditioned Nation, by former ST journalist Cherian
          George, who views Singapore's success through the prism of air-
          conditioning. He writes that Lee designed this air-conditioned
          nation "first and foremost" for the comfort of its citizens,
          believing they are more more interested in money than "high-minded
          political principles".

          "Central control" is a feature of air-con, writes George,
          and "comfort is achieved through control".

          George could have added to that last line "and through people like
          Tjong Yik Min". Tjong, 48, led the ISD though one of Singapore's most
          paranoid periods, the attack on "Marxists". The following year he was
          awarded a gold public administration medal for services to the state.

          Tall and owlish, Tjong seems the quintessential behind-the-scenes
          operator. Although one of Asia's most powerful people, there is not
          one interview or feature published about him appearing on any media
          database. His home number is unlisted and he ranks just a few lines
          in Singapore's Who's Who – listing his job at SPH.

          Tjong rarely makes public appearances. Even those who have regular
          contact with him know little of his family or personal life. It is
          believed he is married with children, and enjoys karaoke.

          "He has a very good mind, very sharp, very focused. He's not just a
          blind loyalist and I think is a true believer in the Singapore
          system," says a local TV personality who knows him. "He arrived at
          that view after careful intellectual consideration."

          Mention Tjong's name in Singapore and three things usually come up.

          Paramount is that he ran the ISD during the 1987 blitz. Second, is
          that he was a classmate of Lee Kuan Yew's son and prime ministerial
          heir apparent Lee Hsien Loong. And third, is that he's of Indonesian-
          Chinese extraction.

          In Singaporean terms, the first speaks to the wariness many
          Singaporeans have of the ISD. Part CIA, part FBI, part Secret
          Service, the ISD is the hammer the Singapore Government has engaged
          to whack – sometimes literally – real or imagined threats to
          stability.

          The second reference speaks to Tjong's perceived influence with
          Singapore's premier political family. Says James Minchin, author of
          the Lee Kuan Yew biography No Man Is an Island, "The civil service is
          full of people determined to do their master's bidding and Tjong
          falls into that category."

          The third reference is controversial in a country where race and
          nationality can be politically charged. It alludes to his family
          name, rendered in the style of Indonesian Chinese, generally regarded
          as country cousins by Singapore's ethnic Chinese ruling elite.

          But there's a fourth aspect to Tjong, which he again refused to
          confirm or be questioned on. Several sources claim his older brother
          was once suspected by Singaporean authorities of being a communist –
          one source even says he heard it directly from him, adding that the
          brother was once "deported" to China in the 1970s.

          The claim, which would be shocking in a nation that via loyal
          functionaries such as Tjong has assiduously rooted out its suspected
          communists, thickens the mystery surrounding Tjong. But in the
          context of the region's painful post-colonial transition to
          independence, the speculation simply speaks to the myriad struggles
          of the era, within nations, and often families. As for Tjong, his
          loyalty to Singapore is unquestioned. Media asked Tjong repeatedly
          for an interview and for answers to a series of questions but he
          declined. SPH spokesperson Liew Kim Siong says Tjong "prefers to keep
          a low profile".

          Tjong's official SPH profile says he left the civil service in 1995
          to join SPH. On paper, that's correct. But a predecessor as
          intelligence chief, and as media titan, Singapore's President S. R.
          Nathan, provides a clue about how power flows in Singapore between
          the public and private sectors.

          A 1974 law gave the Government direct control over print media via
          the introduction of so-called "management shares" of publishing
          companies, which allowed the Government to select who could hold this
          stock. This way the Government didn't need to nationalise the press
          but could influence its board.

          Editorial appointments could then be made by directors. A 1977
          amendment prevented ownership of more than 3 per cent of a
          newspaper's stock, which has had the effect of preventing
          alternatives to the ST group.

          The rationale to change the share structure was to ensure
          that "undesirable foreign elements" weren't able to control
          Singapore's press. Happily for Lee's Government, it also ensured a
          largely compliant press.

          The Washington-based Freedom House's 2001 measure of press freedom –
          a survey that wasn't reported in The Straits Times – says Singapore
          has one of the most restricted presses in the world, ranking
          alongside Zimbabwe, Liberia and Iran.

          In Singapore, there is no credible alternative to SPH. It publishes
          nine daily newspapers across Singapore's four official languages.

          The combined group circulation is more than 1 million – some 25 per
          cent of Singapore's population – and by SPH's own numbers, its titles
          are read by 4 million people every day.

          The ST – described by SPH a "one of the most respected newspapers in
          the world" – is the flagship, circulating 392,000 copies daily. It
          even gives its name to Singapore's stock exchange index. Last year,
          the company made $485 million, some 40 per cent of revenues, a profit
          margin Aus- tralian publishers dream about.

          SPH's only daily competition is an afternoon freesheet owned by the
          government broadcaster. The domination that SPH has over Singapore's
          print media is as if every paper in Australia, bar one, was owned by
          the same company and the group president of that company formerly ran
          ASIO.

          Chua Lee Hoong, Singapore's most prominent political commentator, is
          very open about the fact that she is a former ISD "analyst".

          "It was on the [staffroom] noticeboard when I joined," she beams.

          But her colleague in Jakarta, Susan Sim, is in a quandary and for
          once it's not the arcane politics of arguably the ST's most sensitive
          foreign posting that's got Jakarta-based Sim perplexed.

          I asked Sim if it's true she's also ex-intelligence, as her editor-in-
          chief Cheong maintains. But she seems deeply miffed, even mystified
          at the notion.

          Now I'm mystified. If intelligence services such as the ISD are
          Singapore's "most valuable assets", as Lee Kuan Yew once described
          it, how could that constitute a slur in Singapore? Surely as a good
          Singaporean, she'd have a stronger case if I said she wasn't an ex-
          spook if she actually was? I ask her to clear it up by confirming or
          denying. I get no response.

          But Chua is not coy. "I'm not ashamed about [being ex-ISD]."

          Chua is a classic example of the system working for Singaporeans, and
          Singaporeans paying it back. The Government sent her to Oxford
          University for a degree in politics, philosophy and economics. Her
          pro-government columns are perceived by analysts as insights into
          official thinking. "Is the ST a government mouthpiece?" she asks,
          then answers herself: "Yes . . . and no".

          It's not China's People's Daily, Chua insists. "The key editors are
          not government appointees or necessarily [the ruling] People's Action
          Party members but they are loyalists in a general sense. It's true of
          every major institution in Singapore."

          Chua admits Singaporean journalists self-censor – "they do
          everywhere," she says – but "editorial interference" is too strong a
          term to describe the input of authorities. "It's much more subtle
          than that. I would say we are sometimes, but not often these days,
          reminded to be mindful of the boundaries."

          Chua brings to her commentary "certain basic assumptions" about
          Singapore's national interest. It so happens they often accord with
          the Government and its over-arching demands of its people.

          Part of the challenge, Chua says, of being a journalist and possibly
          even being a Singaporean is testing boundaries that are "not clearly
          defined" by the Government, "perhaps on purpose".

          "It's part of our culture, part of our maturing as a nation."

          That means little campaigning journalism and no established culture
          of investigative reporting. An underground press is virtually non-
          existent, in large part because of the Government's restrictive press
          laws.

          The system functions like a big corporation, designed to maximise
          profit. The Government maintains an upbeat information department,
          frequently holding press briefings lauding economic achievements but
          rarely or publicly discusses substantive matters of policy and
          politics.

          "Government press control might shock one's liberal western mindset,
          but this is now a well-entrenched part of national culture," says
          Roland Rich, a former Australian ambassador to Laos and co-author of
          the book Losing Control, which analyses press freedom across
          Asia. "You get the government you deserve and in Singapore you also
          get the press you deserve."

          -----------------------------------------------------------------------

          Commentary By: Mellanie Hewlitt
          Source: Singapore Review
          Date: 2 May 2003.

          The headlines blared loudly in the 2 May 2003 issues of the Straits
          Times and Business Times "Pay cut? Ministers ready to lead by example:
          DPM", announcing to the entire world this selfless act of leadership by
          Singapore's Ruling Elite.

          In what appeared to be an initial move to reduce severely inflated
          salaries, to more reasonable industry standards, Singapore's Ruling Elite
          have bowed to public pressure and hinted at accepting a pay cut.

          Or have they?

          What exactly does "Leading By Example" mean? Lets try to put some substance
          behind those brave words. As of last count, average take home pay of a
          Singapore minister was well in excess of SGD100,000/- a month.

          The below table puts things back in proper perspective:
          (these are basic figures as of July 2000 and did not include last year's
          pay hikes or other benefits. Otherwise the updated numbers may well be
          much larger)

          1. Singapore
          Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000 (SGD1,958,000) a year
          Minister's Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to
          SGD1,458,040) a year

          2. United States of America
          President: US$200,000
          Vice President: US$181,400
          Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000

          3. United Kingdom
          Prime Minister: US$170,556
          Ministers: US$146,299
          Senior Civil Servants: US$262,438

          4. Australia
          Prime Minister: US$137,060
          Deputy Prime Minister: US$111,439
          Treasurer: US$102,682

          5. Hong Kong
          Chief Executive : US$416,615
          Top Civil Servant: US$278,538
          Financial Sec: US$315,077

          Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000

          In relative terms, less then 20% of Singaporeans here have take home
          salaries exceeding SGD100,000/- A YEAR.

          In stark contrast, BASIC SALARY FOR A MINISTER STARTS AT
          SGD1,166,844 A YEAR, OR JUST UNDER SGD100,000 A MONTH.

          What these ministers earns in just ONE MONTH exceeds the ANNUAL TAKE HOME
          salary of 80% of Singapore's income earning population. Lets not even begin
          to compare annual packages which will exceed SGD1 million easily.

          With the above numbers and figures now in perspective, it is easier to give
          substance to the words "leading by example". Several facts are noteworthy
          here;

          a) That the ministerial salaries are grossly out of proportion, even when
          compared with their counterparts in much larger countries (US and UK) who
          have far heavier responsibilities.

          b) That these salary reductions were long overdue. In the past, such handsome
          remuneration were "justified" on the back of resounding performance. However,
          Singapore's economy has been in the doldrums of a recession for several years
          now (with beginnings reaching as far back as the 1997 Asian economic crisis).
          This economic barometer is a rough measure of performance and implies that
          ministerial salaries were due for review at least 3-4 years ago.

          c) That adjustments should be made to bring them back within the industry
          benchmarks. Taking the salary of US vice president as a rule of thumb, the
          percentage for reductions should start at 50% of current pay. Even if a
          Singapore minister takes a 50% pay-cut, he would still be earning much more
          then the US vice president.

          d) The percentage reductions should greater then 50% if the intent is to bring
          the salaries within the perspective of Singapore's domestic scene.

          With such inflated figures, it is understandable why the local government
          controlled media (Singapore Press Holdings) have taken pains to exclude
          mention of actual numbers for the world to see. The numbers would be too
          glaring and no amount of window dressing or creative writing could have
          reconciled these numbers with a sane figure and restored credibility.

          It is unlikely that Singapore's Ruling Elite will accept such huge salary
          cuts. Exactly How much and when the ministerial pay-cuts takes effect is
          not revealed. Ask any man on the street and 9 out of 10 responses indicate
          many agree the current ministerial salaries are grossly inflated, especially
          in these lean and difficult times.

          Said a long time forumer from an internet political chat group:
          "First of all the Ministers are NOT leading on pay cut. Workers' salaries
          have been drastically reduced since the beginning of the recession while
          thousands have been unemployed. so the Ministers are NOT LEADING. they are
          only CATCHING UP. And they have several decades to catch up on."

          "Secondly, how much of a pay cut will Ministers take? 10%? 20%? unless its
          a cut that will affect their lifestyles, it is merely symbolic and they would
          still not know what it feels like to be a normal worker. as such, this is not
          Leading by Example. Its just another bogus political propaganda stunt"

          A 29 yr old executive who requested to remain anonymous admitted
          sheepishly ;
          "The numbers (ministerial salaries) are a national embarrassment really,
          because it reflects the underlying materialistic value systems of Singapore
          Ministers. No matter how you look at it, the fact remains that our ministers
          are money faced, and these are supposed to be Singapore's leaders, with value
          systems that Singaporeans should follow."

          "It (the ministerial salaries) puts Singapore in a bad light in the eyes of
          the world. The rest of Singaporeans really put in an honest days work for every
          penny they earn. And the process for review and approval of the ministerial
          salaries is also a joke. Imagine sitting on the board and approving (on White
          Paper)your own salary increments! Its all a wayang show".

          This also raises the question as to the authenticity of the actual process
          for review and approval of cabinet minister's salaries. Who decides on these
          numbers? Is there independence and transparency?

          Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20, 2002 challenged
          Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they understand the
          economic hardships faced by the public. And the over-riding concern is that
          Singapore's Ruling Elite are unable to appreciate the economic hardship that
          the masses face in these tough times.

          The growing public resentment comes afew months after PM Goh's careless
          comments that "lay-offs were notall bad", drew a backlash from the public with
          a flood of e-mails being sent to the foreign press to register public
          indignation.

          Singapore Review welcomes honest feedback on this hotly debated topic.

          You can Send your comments to the editor: Sg_Review@yahoogroups.com

          ----------------------------------------------------------------------



          By: Mellanie Hewlitt
          Source: Singapore Review
          Date: 9 April 2003

          Some may have come across a recent article in the Straits Times
          (attached
          below) concerning the lack of ethics in South Korean civil servants.
          This
          problem is not confined to Korean State Administration.

          Not too long ago, the term "minister" and "civil servant" conjured up
          images of
          altruistic, self-sacrificial, nationalistic citizens who dedicated
          their lives
          to the betterment of the country. "Think not what the country can do
          for you
          but what you can do for the country", so a wise man once said.

          But Kennedy is no longer around, and how things have changed.

          Today, at least within the limited context of Singapore's state
          administration,
          these same words have a hollow ring and these once noble aspirations
          are
          replaced by more monetary and materialistic considerations. Indeed,
          Singapore
          has the dubious honour of having the world's most highly paid
          ministers and
          civil servants.

          There have been many reasons cited by the PAP to justify Singapore's
          ministerial salary scales (which are massively out of proportion with
          their
          counterparts in the rest of the world). The most common reasons were;

          a) That you needed these pay packages to attract the right talent;
          b) The pay packages are justified on the basis of elite performance;
          and
          c) The packages would ensure there was no corruption within the
          administration.

          But on closer inspection, none of these assertions hold water.

          What happens when the state implements a recruitment policy that
          emphasizes
          monetary remuneration above all other fundamentals. In all likely
          there will be
          a flock of hit-men and mercenaries sending in applications. The very
          same
          predators that should be avoided in the first place, to guard the
          very flock of
          sheep in need of protection.

          In a perfect world, ministers and civil servants alike serve the
          public and are
          officers who look out for and protect public interest. Such public
          office
          callings require motivation based on moral and ethical values as it
          is these
          same principles which will shape and mould the very fabric of society
          (via
          public policy implementations for instance). To accord a monetary
          base to this
          would seriously erode and corrupt this once noble function.

          Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20,
          challenged
          Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they
          understand the
          economic hardships faced by the public. And the over-riding concern
          is that
          Singapore's Ruling Elite are unable to appreciate the economic
          hardship that
          the masses face in these tough times.

          Just some weeks ago, blatant remarks by PM Goh that "Lay Offs were
          good" again
          raised many eyebrows, and lent support to the notion that leaders who
          earn 10
          times the salary of the average Singaporean will be unable to fully
          appreciate
          the far-reaching impact and effects their public policy will have on
          the
          average lay person, who takes home less then 10% of a minister's pay.

          Apart from the above, Singapore's attempts to apply private sector
          profit
          driven enterprise to the public sector has attracted much critisicm.
          The
          feasibility of the entire scheme is questionable. How is the
          performance of a
          minister or civil servant measured? One logical answer is on the
          results of
          their policies perhaps, and on the financial performance of Singapore
          Inc as a
          whole. But Singapore Inc is in the throes of a long drawn recession,
          and it is
          public knowledge that Singapore's economic well being is subject
          largely to
          extraneous factors, which, by the admission of the ministers, are
          largely
          beyond the control of the government. So wherein lies the
          justification for
          latest round of promotions (of junior ministers)? Perhaps only God
          will know.

          The other problem with the notion of pegging ministerial remuneration
          to
          performance is the yardstick to be used for measuring performance
          itself. The
          assumption made here is that Singapore is akin to a MNC and its
          performance can
          be measured in dollars and cents, or at the very lest in absolute
          numbers.

          This assumption is questionable since many areas of public policy
          implementation are in "soft" "intangible" areas and the direct
          results of such
          policies cannot be measure in crude numbers. Some examples are health
          care,
          defense, education and the arts etc. How do you quantify results in
          these
          industries. How do you reduce the love and joy of discovery of a
          child to a
          solitary figure? You can't. And you should not attempt this endeavor
          for it
          will rob the joy of learning and discovery from the child.

          In short it is an overly simplistic treatment of public service
          calling. A
          result oriented approach (even when it is not in terms of profit and
          money)
          cannot be applied to every aspect of state administration. There are
          reasons
          why certain functions remain forever in the hands of the state (and of
          government). And that maybe because a free-market profit driven (or
          result
          driven) approach is simply inappropriate.

          Attaching a monetary or numerical attribute to these
          functions/callings, runs
          the risk or reducing the worth of a human being to mere dollars and
          cents, or
          to a mere percentage or statistical figure.

          An example of previous errors is in state intervention in the
          reproduction
          process to boost falling birth rates. As one indignant writer to
          Singapore
          Review puts it: "Am I to base my preference for love-making and
          procreation,
          solely on the statistical fact that Singapore as a whole is not
          replacing
          itself? Is my child to be just a number? Of cause not! I (and my
          potential
          child) will not be reduced to a mere census figure."

          The bottom line is that honesty and integrity are trades that cannot
          be (and
          should not be) bought with money. RESPECT can also be added to this
          list of
          intangibles which cannot be bought by money. It has to be earned.

          And a leader who cannot live-up to standards that he sets for the
          rest of his
          people will be accorded little respect. A direct example is a leader
          who calls
          for the masses to take pay-cuts, be "less choosy" and work longer
          hours for
          less pay, when the same leader is unwilling to take a similar pay cut
          himself.
          It is so easy to set high standards within the comfortable refuge of
          an ivory
          tower, but quite another matter to follow through and lead by
          example. Few if
          any of the current leaders have this conviction.

          That same leader will be accorded even less respect if he is unable
          to fulfill
          his promises. Election promises which are still very recent in the
          minds of
          most Singaporeans.

          Finally, what about the notion that high salaries were required in
          the public
          service to avoid rampant corruption amongst civil servants (Indonesia
          is the
          most cited example here). Well, would you also be paying the
          neighbourhood
          thieves and crooks a "salary" to reduce crime rate? Nonetheless the
          notion of
          legitimized corruptions is an interesting one which bares further
          exploration
          in future issues of Singapore Review.


          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
          -
          Opposition Politician Challenges Ministers to Take Pay Cuts
          (AFP)

          22 November 2002

          Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20,
          challenged
          Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they
          understand the
          economic hardships faced by the public.

          "Will it be too much to hope, with the news that the recession is
          cutting
          deeper, that the ministers will at last take a cut in their salaries
          to
          empathise with the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs or
          have had to
          take wage cuts," Jeyaretnam said in a statement.

          "Ministers do not have to take wage cuts to keep their jobs whereas
          workers are
          urged to take wage cuts just to keep earning," he said.

          Jeyaretnam, a thorn in the side of the government when an opposition
          MP, was
          forced to quit his parliamentary seat last year when declared
          bankrupt, because
          he could not meet mounting debts resulting from losing defamation
          suits brought
          by ruling party stalwarts.

          However, he has continued his criticism of government policies from
          the
          sidelines as the export-oriented Southeast Asian republic went into
          recession.

          Although there were signs of a recovery in the middle of the year,
          growth is
          again faltering amid sluggishness in the global economy.

          On Tuesday, the national wage body recommended that wages be frozen
          or cut to
          save jobs and help companies cope with the slowdown.

          Earlier this week, the government trimmed its 2002 growth forecast to
          2.0-2.5
          percent from 3.0-4.0 percent after releasing fresh data showing
          export growth
          was stalling.

          Amidst these bleak conditions, the government has maintained a stiff
          upper-lip
          in maintaining (and increasing) remunerations to what are some of the
          world's
          highets paid civil servants and ministers.

          ----------------------------------------------------------------------
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.