I thank all comments that you’ve posted. To me, all the comments were positive and constructive, and I truly appreciate it. None of the comments were irrelevant or negative. Some prefer not to read my blog after this post, fine with me since there are plenty of “I-hate-PAP-tailored-blogs” out there. Anyway, this blog is not of the consensus of following the “mainstream netizen”.
Think this blog did serve its purpose by getting you all to speak up and throw out some ideas. In my perspectives, politics is speaking out your own ideals, ask questions, challenge the norms, challenge your own ideals and last and most importantly, finding the answer and why things are the way are on YOUR OWN. The problem with us, Asians, is that we either don’t question and allow others to dictate us or ask but are constantly too sluggish to find out our own answers. Do I have my own disagreements with PAP? Of course! But instead of listing my grumbles like many others, why don’t I challenge myself further and answer my own grumbles. Put them to the practical test and challenge them. If you do so, some of your own questions might be answered.
Back to the questions. First and foremost, did I simplify the whole issue to a one-liner, “competition of talents from the private sector”? Yes, I did. I could and I would list all the reasons, logics and statistics into 10,000 words thesis to support my claim, but who would ever bother reading it, not mentioning, commenting on it. Yes, there are more factors to consider. And your inputs are valid. Perhaps having a short and provocative article to spark the answers from you is better than me listing my thoughts and imposing them on you.
Replying to some of your questions, Marc, good point, but I have statistics to represent the contrary to yours. It is not true that Singapore has spent proportionally less on education, health care and welfare for the needy. Kai, I’ve listed the tax rates of the Scandinavian countries for your use n the previous post’s comments. And to Young Singaporean, thanks for your comments. To asiayouthmedia.com, twasher and ttg, and Kelvin Lim, I appreciate your comments and your points are well-noted.
Morals Vs Money
I guess most people oppose the statement I made about the monetary competition and the morals of a leader quote. You’ve every right to be. Maybe I am becoming like the Thrasymachus of Socrates age, a pragmatist and realist.
Suppose everyone who reads this blog sits in an enclosed room and the LKY asked, “I’ve got confidence in your ability and for SGD50k per annum, I want you to be my minister.” I am sure at least 9/10, if not all, will say yes. Why? He thinks we are capable, we are moral and we are not in it for the money, so despite the pay, we will volunteer our service to the nation. I am sure every one of us WILL think this way. And this is the most common comment I’ve seen in the previous post, ie, moral leader should service his country and not for the pay. I agree with this totally.
Part II and this will get more interesting. Five years down the road, you have experienced tiring but rewarding job of making a change in people’s lives. Some will appreciate, but in like every other democratic country, most will criticize you. Every week you’ve spent your time in the Meet-the-People Session answering to issues on the ground. Get scolded by a good number of them. Your family has lost their privacy (see MP Wee Siew Kim’s daughter). While you’ve spent so much time (literary a 24/7 job) planning, implementing and answering to the people, the people thinks you are nothing but a ribbon cutter at events. If you are the Minister of Health, how do you balance the cost of health care against the quality of health care? Either ways, you will be criticized by some. If you are the Minister of Transport, how do you justify the cost of transportation (which is privatized) with the quality? Similar, both ways you will have your opponents. Minister of Finance, how do you balance your budget while setting aside enough for healthcare, welfare and education, with limited taxes (one of the lowest in Asia – aside from HK)? Minister of Manpower, how to do you lower the unemployment rates? Create jobs! How do you create jobs? Get in foreign MNCs! How to you attract MNCs? Lower taxes, provide security and stability…etc! Then you will have issues with MOF, MCYS, MTI and others who will ask you on budgeting issues. All these are the battles you will face in every parliamentary session. In addition to that, your daily running of the Ministry and making key decisions. Bottomline, you’ve realized that being a Minister is not so simply. And for the SGD50k per annum, the answering the people, doing your roles, being accountable and making such public sacrifices maybe quite a stretch.
Before you know it, the next General Election is here. Now, a MNC (let’s just say, NOL) asked you to join them for SGD1mil per annum as their CEO. Stress and accountability should be more or less the same. LKY asked, “You’ve proven yourself and I want you in my team. According to the statures, I’ll increase your salary to SGD60k per annum. Are you with me? Now, how many of the 10 do you think will stay? Some will say 10/10 but a realist might say that one term is good enough for some to call it a day, so maybe 8/10.
Let’s just say 1/10 Ministers will leave to join the private sector. Essentially, this would represent and result in a small number of “short-term” thinking Ministers in the Cabinet. As for the ills of short-term-thinking Ministers, you should be able to critically figure it out.
Now you are the Prime Minister of Singapore, and to the cohort of moral leaders. Your Ministers are in the position of making laws, approving multi-billion to a few million dollars public contracts and running their Ministries. But because we are all moral leaders who have visited this blog and happened to say “yes” in Year 1, you are confident that they are not corrupted. In every public contract (big or small), there will be disputes on favouritism. Once in a while, there will be complaints that reach to your ear on the corruption of the civil services. Two points arises.
1) How confident are you of your Ministers of not being corrupted since the reward for corruption is much higher than easer for a (subjectively) lower-paid Minister?
2) As a member of public, how confident are you of the Minister for impartiality in the tendering of the contracts?
In such cases, if you are the Minister, I’m sure you are not corrupted. But you, the moral leader will have to face such accusations year-in year-out. To such an extent, you will think that is this all worthwhile, fighting false accusations and for your family to bear the burden with you?
May I suggest, which most of you might disagree is that, increasing the Minister’s salary 1) makes them harder to be corrupt, 2) undertake more responsibility to perform and account and 3) gives confidence to the public of his undertaking of office. Maybe you might not know of this but the implicit rule made known to the PAP Ministers is that if you corrupt, you will commit suicide. Unless you choose to be a coward and will face the humiliation that will slain your name for life. I kid you not on this. A PAP Minister once said this.
Maybe you might be thinking that I’ve seriously exaggerated the scenarios but I can assure you that every one scenario, I can name you a real life Minister living through this. Now, hope that you will just answer the following questions from the perspective that you are one of the 10 Ministers:
1) Year 1 – Will you say yes to LKY to be a Minister? How many do you think will say “yes” from the 10? (eg: 9/10)
2) Year 5 – After all the realization of work and responsibility as a Minister, will you continue? How many do you think will stay on as Minister from the 10? (eg: 9/10)
3) Year 6 – Will you accept the offer from NOL? How do you think will stay on for a second term from the 10? (eg: 9/10)
4) Year 10 – As the PM, are you absolutely confident that your Ministers are incorruptible?
5) Year 10 – If you are the Minister, how many of your peers from the 10, do you think will quit in the midst of moderate public confidence?
I would just like to hear your answers as if you are the Minister and your opinions of your fellow Ministers. The answers to these questions will be the answer to your questions. And I hope you do so with a practical and not an ideal sense. Good night and I await your interesting, and most probably opposing comments.