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Climate control in the Singapore Press

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  • 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 1 of 8 , May 3, 2003
      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.

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