Monday, May 23, 2011

PM Lee : Nothing's sacrosanct in Government review of policies....

I remember in 2002 sensing that there was desire for change on the ground,  PM appointed Vivian Balakrishnan to head the Remaking Singapore Committee [Link]. It was committee was split up into 5 sub committees called  Beyond Careers, Beyond Condo, Beyond Club, Beyond Credit Card and Beyond Cars were also formed to review specific areas. Minister Vivian as chair of the committee quickly proclaimed that there would be no sacred cows (except meritocracy & racial issues). If you go through the recommendations, it talks about a more consultative govt, better transport system, more help for low income families, etc. Most of the 70 recommendations were accepted by the govt in 2004. In 2006, the PAP won by a landslide with 66.6% of the votes. Although support fell by 6% from the previous election in 2001, it was seen as okay because it was viewed that the high support in 2001 was due to the 911 terrorist attacks which boosted the PAP's election results.

Yesterday, the PAP govt announced a committee to review ministerial pay chaired by Gerald Ee (yes, him again...called again to do National Service). The high pay of ministers, has always been an issue with people like myself and perhaps most of the people who read my blog. I spoke about those million dollar salaries in 2005 when this blog was started. In 2001 & 2006, when PAP won by a landslide, ministers' pay was also abnormally high. I think when Goh Chok Tong was PM, there was a severe recession in 1998 and a reporter asked him whether he would revise ministers' pay given workers are suffering from painful job losses. Goh Chok Tong arrogantly replied that if there was any revision it would be upwards! It infuriated some people, but he still got his landslide  victory in the next election. I'll explain why this is so later in the posting...

The environment has changed so much the PAP of today cannot be the PAP of yesterday. It cannot do the same things in the same way. Doing the same things in a different way might or might not be sufficient to maintain the support of the people. It has to risk doing something different to try to regain support. The PM has done of the complete reverse of what he did shortly after the last election - he is going to implement a pay cut for ministers and today he announced it will be backdated to 21 May 2011 after the panel headed by Gerald Ee makes its recommendations.
While cutting ministers' pay is not in itself going to solve any of  the problems faced by ordinary Singaporeans, it is a very important move because it signals a desire to change the value system in govt. Singapore has the biggest income gap in the developed world with only the US having something that is close to  our income gap. None of the developed Asian countries, S. Korea, Taiwan and Japan have anything close our income gap. Over the years we imported a lot of the American style of management - hire and fire, high executive compensation, war for talent. Singapore became Singapore Inc and our ministers linked their income with the top earners in the private sector. As the income gap rose, instead of examining what has gone on wrong in the private sector compensation system, our ministers' pay rode the widening income gap upwards.....in some ways participating in a culture of greed that has crept into corporate culture in the past few decades.  Warren Buffett has spoken extensively on this topic and sees no economic reason for top earners in a corporation to have their pay increased from 20 times the lowest paid worker in the company to 500 and in some places 5000 times.

"'Too often, executive compensation in the U.S. is ridiculously out of line with performance.'
- Warren Buffett.[Link]

Similarly, as the pay of workers at the bottom 20% of our workforce fell, our ministers' salaries were linked to top earners rose over the years. For many this was the act of a govt that has lost its way because it failed to see that the compensation system in corporations and the Singapore govt was starting to run counter to the value system of our society. It is not acceptable to most ordinary Singaporeans that a person working a full time job cannot make enough to start a family and lead a full life. Redistributing wealth to achieve a more just and equitable system became more important than the all out pursuit GDP growth. The reason for widespread resentment over high ministers' pay was the desire of ordinary Singaporeans to see leaders with the same values as themselves and not leaders who partake in what they saw as wrong in the system we are in. Over time, more and more people could see what was wrong. 


Over the past 2 decades, lower paid workers' benefits and job security were eroded - companies adopted hire and fire policies, seek out cheap foreign labor instead of increasing productivity, there was constant downward pressure on their pay. CEOs would squeezed down the pay of the lowest paid workers finding ways and means such as hiring foreigners to save a few hundred dollars and then paying themselves millions extra in bonuses - at the aggregate cost level, the companies did not become more competitive and over the long term less competitive because they were less incentives to invest in productivity.  Singapore workers reciprocated to this harsh environment and became the least loyal in the world[Link]. The once great francise known as the "Singapore worker" built by our parents, the children of coolies and fishermen, was destroyed by this culture of greed and Singaporeans saw the PAP with its tendency to pay itself high salaries as part of this. Other countries such as S. Korea did not adopt the same culture and they are world beaters. The first act of their president (also called Lee) was to donate all his own wealth to charity - they set the example at the very top to to foster the right model for their corporations and the rest of society.

PAP's change is off to a powerful symbolic start with the revision of ministers' pay and I strongly believe they are sincere. There is, however,  plenty to undo or redo and 20 years of going in the wrong direction cannot be reformed overnight. Still,  I'm encouraged because they look more enlightened this time round to do a real remake of Singapore. Remember the PAP still holds the power in Singapore, at the end of the day, whether we like them or not, we need them to start this process of change and fix what has gone very wrong in our society.

50 comments:

sgcynic said...

Like you, I too remain hopeful, while keeping in mind the case of our current state. They have severely depleted the positive good will and damaged their brand name through their own doing.

Anonymous said...

So, these few "chosen and talented" individuals, who have been defending and justifying their high ministerial salaries, have been proven wrong. What else have they been telling us were good and right policies that were needed? Another 900,000 foreigners? More reviews are in order?

Anonymous said...

There is a very deep lesson to learn from this episode.
It takes just one man (you know him) a couple of minutes to declare as a policy and implement the absurdly huge obscene ministers salaries scheme some five years ago.
But to bring the salaries down to sane level, you need a Committee of people.

The lesson to learn is this. We should never let major decision and policy of a country be dictated by the whims and fancies of one man. Especially old and dying men.
zero

Anonymous said...

Its a symbolic start... but knowing the greed of the PAP, I'm not holding my breathe for any significant change to come out of this.

The main reason for extreme high pay for PAP ministers is to legitimately bribe them, to remind them which side of their bread is buttered, so they'll "know what to do" should there be a conflict of interest between country and PAP's crony businesses. Extreme high pay makes it so difficult to be impartial.

Anonymous said...

politics are dirty. they only did it when they knew more opposition will be elected as MP and they quickly cut the salary, after enjoying the big paycheck since 1994.
they did it not for us, but for their politics goals and themselves.

Anonymous said...

Gerald Ee is just another liar who fumbled at the recent transport fare adjustment and needed MOT Raymond Lim to clear his shit.

Anonymous said...

As their pay is already extremely high by any standard, I hope the cut will be substantial, say 40% to 50%.

Anything less would be seen only as a token cut. Might as well don't cut.

Anonymous said...

ex-MM must be a very unhappy man now. Remember he was arguing like hell during the debate for Ministers pay hike.

Did anyone notice in yesterday's shit times, ex-MM remain seated and was not even looking at SME when SME offerred to shake ex-MM's hands ?

Catherine Lim was right, his ego must have been beaten. He should now seek solace from his wife.

Anonymous said...

Half of the sky high is still sky high! The only way that I would be convinced is if the ballpark is down to a level that is comparable to the ministers of the rest of first world countries.

Anonymous said...

I hope for the best but expect less! I hope LHL is sincere not for PAP's sake but because two decades of crapping our economy is two decades too long.

Anonymous said...

I believe that paying PM anything more than a Peanut will not satisfy most of the Singaporean.

Anonymous said...

I for one am not hopeful nor am I convinced. This is just another damage control action, just like firing those non-performing ex-ministers, especially those who garnered low percentage of votes. Singaporeans are pragmatists, and PAP is the most pragmatic of the lot. They will do whatever it takes just to remain in power. It doesn't mean they have really changed their attitude or that they have your best interests in their hearts. Once PAP sensed that more people are less pissed off at them, they will just go back to business as usual. If PAP gets >60% votes in 2016, all their old exploitative policies and arrogant attitudes will be revived again, this time 100X worse.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Anon 10.55.
The white shirted brigade has a
culture of arrogance and self-serving for the last 50 years. You expect me to believe that they have a sudden epiphany that will change their DNA?It is just a monopolistic instinct `to dress up to change `for the sake of survival.Anyway, compensation is fleeting, it can be disguised in numerous forms.
Singapore is PAP inc.The bunch of
actors are just so convincing to
the naive.

Anonymous said...

http://beforeitsnews.com/story/655/322/How_NSA_Access_Was_Built_Into_Windows.html

Henry said...

It is not just the ministers' pay that needs to be changed. The whole MIW machine has carefully crafted a system which might be difficult to dismantle. They have changed their remuneration system for the top echelons of Temasek companies, and then using these figures they calibrate their own figures for the ministers. Also, they say they use top banking CEO salaries to benchmark. How can anyone of them MIWs be comparable to a Wee Cho Yaw, and hence how can they use WCY's salary as a benchmark. Laughable logic. Not convinced that this is genuine reform.

Anonymous said...

I hear what you say,
I see what you do.

Anonymous said...

From the Chinese newspaper, it seems that they're using 2009 data for the ministerial pay review.

Immediately questions that arises:
*Why isn't the 2011/2010 data used instead? Are they the same? I thought there were few increments after 2009.

*Why the committee accepting 2 years back data in the first place if they want to make well-informed and good judgement/recommendations?

* Is this the way they going review other policies? If yes, i am really not too hopeful about the political will of our PM.

Anonymous said...

Now that even ministerial pay is up for review, what about the foreign immigration issue? I rate that as even more in need of urgent review than minister's pay. Uncontrolled foreigners intake contributed negatively to suppressed wages, over crowded public transport, pushing up property prices n daily substenance n eroded our NSmen contribution. Shouldn't this be addressed first??

Anonymous said...

I am not convinced the government or the ruling party is changing the way they manage Singapore.... and the most effective way is build two-party parliamentary system in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Reform? ha! ha! ha!
Review? ha! ha! ha!
Repent? Ha! Ha! ha!

More of the same please... just hide the underwear from peeping out...

Change in 1 sitting within 5 years?

Organisation change usually requires 7 years or more.. so that is the argument in 2016 when they say that another term is rquired to ensure a complete change..

Anonymous said...

Align minister pay to these key performance indicators:

lowest 10% income of Singapore Citizens,

median income of Singapore Citizens,

unemployment rate of Singapore Citizens,

yearly inflation rate of Singapore,

affordability of housing prices via ratio of monthly median income of Singapore Citizens to median price of housing,

life span of Singapore Citizens,

survival rate Singapore Citizens in public hospitals,

yearly crime rate of Singapore,

average waiting time to get public transport via MRT and buses,

average traveling time to get from point A to point B using public transport via MRT and buses,

% of default loans leading to liquidity problem.

Straits Times Index and

GDP growth rate.

Each of these KPIs should not take up more than 10% weight in the decision to determine minister pay.

Amused said...

Don't be so hopeful so soon. Yours is one of the voices that help to check PAP policies. Yawning Bread has something to say too -

"What I notice about this list is that it is made up of people whose jobs include setting compensation for heads of large organisations. That already is a bit worrying because it seems to adopt the perspective that political jobs are tantamount to heading a large organisation. The Singapore Inc mindset is still there. You would notice for example that there is no one in the committee who is a political scientist, who can advise on what citizens expect of political office-bearers."

I would reserve judgment to keep up the pressure on PAP. They need to get back to the business of serving the people.

Anonymous said...

http://sg-truth.blogspot.com/2011/05/chan-chun-sing-nephew-of-lee-kuan-yew.html

Anonymous said...

Told you how many times already. Lucky's thinking is very boxed up one lah. lol

Anonymous said...

if the incumbent are doing the right thing this time, we got to thanks the opposition parties and not to mention the strong mandate and faith given by Aljunied GRC and Hougang citizens, we salute them despite the threats, they are model citizens that believe in real transformation as the only path to save our little nation from further degradation.

Sgelectorate said...

Let us go back to 1995 when a "panel" was drawn up to approve the salary. Is ironic isn't it that Tony Tan's words then that they'll be left behind by the young electorate. Well, look where they almost are?Plus of course, Catherine Lim is having the last laughs now.

Outrage over pay unabated
From IAN STEWART
SCMP, Jan 16, 1995


THE unprecedented public criticism of ministers' pay rages on unabated, despite Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's decision to forgo his salary increase for five years.
All ministers will have their pay pegged to a private-sector benchmark. This will see the annual salaries of even the lowest-ranking Cabinet members rise by about a third to S$811,000 (HK$4.33 million).



The panel, appointed to 'consider the appropriateness of the Prime Minister's salary benchmark', recommended that Mr Goh's salary be double this figure, some S$1.6 million. His current annual salary is S$1,148,000.

But the move also sounded a selfless note in the wake of the panel's recommendation, which for some Singaporeans reinforced the perception of a government preoccupied with financial reward.

The increase in ministers' salaries was approved in November amid harsh criticism from some quarters. Most people interviewed in a sample survey said the benchmarks were too high, while author Catherine Lim reported 'incredulity and anger' among members of the public.

She said the issue gave 'an astonishing new definition to Singapore leadership, based on a precise measure of monetary worth'.

Lim said: 'The vocabulary of Singapore politics has been effectively purged of the language of idealism with the result that words such as 'nobility', 'altruism' and 'service' will now no longer have much meaning.' Mr Goh strongly criticised Lim's article, which said the voice of the Government had become sterner and its stand harder. But his decision to delay acceptance of a salary increase to some extent serves to undermine the impact of her remarks.

Lim also said the salaries issue might be 'souring the ground enough to threaten a significant loss of votes' for the Government.

If 1995 is the election year predicted by some analysts, the Government will no doubt have in mind that it could suffer at the polls because of the salaries issue. Mr Goh's action has put him in a position to deflect opposition attacks directed at him over the question.

His decision to postpone the salary raise coincided with a warning by the chairman of the ruling People's Action Party, Tony Tan, that the party's thinking must change to reflect the mood of the times.

'If we are not alert to this danger, we will wake up one day to find that we have been left behind by a younger electorate,' he said.

While Mr Goh endorsed the new salaries for ministers by saying a Prime Minister needed to have 'some of the most able and committed of Singaporeans to support him in Cabinet', he has stood apart somewhat from his Cabinet colleagues with his decision to forgo an increase now.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a hidden agenda against opposition as PM mention in 2006 election to fix the opposition if they are elected. If they base on the time spend in the office than the MP will look very over pay. Foreign talent is the main issue of Singaporean during the election 2011 and they simply diversify the attention. So I doubt there will be any change.

Anonymous said...

I was hopeful when the PM formed a committee to review ministers' pay, but my heart sank when I read the names of those on the committee. What we have are PAP linked people...a guy from NTUC, the CEO of Breadtalk (what qualification does he possess to under take this role...I think he has only 'O' levels and doubt he knows the meaning of ethics). The PM really thinks we are fools!

Anonymous said...

I was hopeful when the PM formed a committee to review ministers' pay, but my heart sank when I read the names of those on the committee. What we have are PAP linked people...a guy from NTUC, the CEO of Breadtalk (what qualification does he possess to under take this role...I think he has only 'O' levels and doubt he knows the meaning of ethics). The PM really thinks we are fools!

Anonymous said...

errr...the guy owns breadtalk. what do u own? cheebai chui ah?

Anonymous said...

Depends on how you look at all these changes. Either it points to PM being a weak leader or he is a stupid leader. But I think he is a reflection of the people.

Protons said...

Come On, people! There's a reason for Quek to be there.

Back then, GCT said that the Ministerial pay was costed at an extra S$11 per head which is equivalent to 5 plates of char kway teow (with hum!)per Singaporean. That he claimed was cheap.

Fast forward to 2011. I think it won’t be the char kway teow now, but the math might look something like this instead= $3.8m/5.08m of population = $0.74 per head. That’s like 1 Breadtalk bun per citizen!

Anonymous said...

People securely in prison pose no threat to those outside the prison walls. Imagine you could construct a prison - a prison of the mind - from which those inside can never threaten your power and control.


What are some of the things a psychologist of mass control might come up with?

1) "Turn the other cheek". If I'm relentlessly hurting you, stealing from you, abusing you, the ideal scenario for me would be for you not to fight back, for you to turn the other cheek and let me keep doing it. Cui bono? The abusers or the abused?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, once this stupid garmen gives in, more demanding changes will follow. changes in the name of serving people? I think more like changes serving their own selfish wants or even plot to bring the garmen down. and the joke is, their head has been smashed against the Internet wall so hard, she can't think straight.

expect more and more demand for "changes" to come. either they go down or the country go down,nothing less.

Anonymous said...

I told you. People everywhere are fucked by the religious mind. The christians are taking us down the road to hell.

Anonymous said...

Aiyah, people will always find excuses to trash the PAP or any party in power. If we can't satisfy all, rest assure the demand for changes will never end so as to keep the hate going.

Anonymous said...

i think is the curse of party politicking :)

Anonymous said...

If it is not salary it will be their fukking faces. Please go and change your face!

Anonymous said...

Not farting face will be age. Too young to be a politician(true though lol), fart off!

Anonymous said...

CRONYISM! Get rid of all MPs and ministers who are related to so and so and who is who!

Hmmm....then parliament will be quite empty HAHAHAHA

Anonymous said...

Anon 18:06

LOL

Anonymous said...

I share the same feeling as anon23/5/11 17:55. To show that it is an independent committee to review a policy made by PAP government, why choose members known to work with the government so closely,particularly as key player of the tripartite?

Anonymous said...

Watch " INSIDE JOB " youtube documovie

Anonymous said...

First start, increase the low ranks pay of civil service.

Kin said...

Sad to say I'm not as optimistic as you, Mr Tan. I still believe that in order to win over the hearts of the 40%, all our ministers should be paid as much as the aunties in McDonalds.

Only then, the ministers who would still remain in PAP are the ones really out to serve the country for the people. Maybe then, they would gain respect and admiration from the 40%. Or else our ministers would never understood the plights of an average sinkie.

Anonymous said...

Hope this review will result in a mindset change that will not only start from the top but will flow down to the Civil and Statutory Boards officials who can make a real difference to Singapore.

This is the best time to be bold and make chamges that will be good for Singapore in the long run.
Do not accept ststus quo as an easy solution.

All the best to Singapore at this critical stage of development.

skeptic said...

LKY and GCT having a nice chat with a younger looking Chiam on race in 1988.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6NTRAOaIwU

Anonymous said...

The review should lead to real change in the interest of Singaporean and local companies.

Hope our Govt and all its officials it will make a real difference to improve the life of ordinary Singaporean.

Anonymous said...

http://sg.news.yahoo.com/survey-hk-singapore-bosses-most-demanding-051002700.html

Singapore is a fucking pressure cooker society waiting to fall sick.

www.muebles-en-asturias.com said...

This will not actually have success, I consider this way.