Wednesday, January 18, 2012
I put up this video not because I want you to listen to the PM's same old argument that ministerial pay has to be high to attract capable people but to show you the empty seats next to Tin Peh Ling and behind her. Those PAP MPs didn't even bother to appear to listen to their own prime minister. You may take issue with MP Tin's intellect but she has been "on the ball" when it comes to attendance in parliament. The same cannot be said of other PAP MPs who have successful high flying careers and showing up in parliament is a part-time thing for which they are paid close to $200,000 in allowance per year.
One day as I got up a bus, I saw a somewhat familiar face. I couldn't figure out where I had seen the person but I took the seat next to him. He greeted me in Hokkien and started talking to me. It took me a while to recall the man in his late forties was working at a coffeeshop that I go to every Saturday morning. He was very happy because the boss allowed him to go off early that day and he was very chatty. He started talking about his life. He had a kid in secondary school and was looking for a job at a coffeeshop nearer to his home in order to save some transport cost - his pay was $1000 so every dollar had to be squeezed. He asked me what I worked as. My Hokkien was really rusty and all I could manage was to tell him was I worked with computers. He got really excited and said he heard that computer work paid very well - "$2000 a month!". I told him, "yes, a person can get $2000 working with computers". He had that "wow" look on his face - $2000 is a lot of money for someone paid $1000. At the back of my head, I was thinking how awkward it would be for me to tell him how much I was actually paid and didn't have the Hokkien vocabulary to explain why I have to paid that amount...then again even if I could speak in fluent Hokkien, it is hard explain and justify why I have to be paid a particular multiple of his salary. You think about it ....this guy turns up for work everyday works from dawn until almost mid-night and our MPs don't even show up at the most important parliament debate to give their 2 cents worth get paid 20 times what the guy at the coffeeshop gets - some of us would rather have that cup of coffee than some PAP MP supporting policies we do not want. The Straits Times published an article saying some 2nd tier executives are now paid $1M a year so we cannot expect to cut ministerial pay too much....so that is how much "wisdom" in the boardroom is valued at these days. PM Lee says they need to pay what looks like a hell lot of money to the "man on the street" to get capable people.
After so much debate, the PAP govt still cannot get people to see their point of view. They still cannot get people to accept their arguments. But why should the people accept something they see as unjust and incorrect?
"But my bigger concern is for the long term; for future Cabinets and potential office holders, people who have not yet come in, people who must make that decision and that commitment." - Lee Hsen Loong
I listened to all the PAP MPs arguments that their concern is for the country and that good salary is necessary to find good capable people. But all these arguments misses the central key issue in our society - that of high income inequality. You cannot justify such high salaries pegged to the highest income earners at a time when income gap is so large. Yes there a practical issues for the PAP because they cannot find dedicated people unless they pay out these skyhigh salaries. It also has an ideology unattractive to many capable people who don't anything to do with the PAP. But that is a problem the PAP created for itself by allowing the income gap to grow and the wages of a large segment of the populace to stagnate and fall. There is now growing evidence that influx foreign workers which the PAP euphemistically explains are here to create jobs for Singaporeans has suppress the wages of many Singaporeams. The whole system needs remaking[Singapore Inc needs rethinking] and the inability of the PAP govt to set ministerial salaries at a level acceptable to the man on the street merely reflects urgent need for change in this country.
We shouldn't accept the principles laid out for ministerial pay when the issue of excessive executive compensation and low worker wages remain unresolved. These high ministerial salaries are linked to bigger problems in our society and the more the PAP MPs argue with passion in support of their own compensation, the less we feel they are able to solve the real problems faced by Singaporeans. We never hear them stand up to talk with the same passion about better compensation for workers - minimum wages, better work benefits, greater worker protection.
Posting Time 7:37 AM
Posted by Lucky Tan