Some very startling leaps in logic there, from Lee Kuan Yew. But let's humour the man. For the sake of discussion, let's assume that we can indeed ascertain the quality of our PAP ministers, by comparing the economic status of maids and Singaporeans.
Singapore ministers set for million-dollar pay hike
..... The opposition also argues that a million-dollar pay hike is unwarranted for leaders of a country that has no legal minimum wage and where 20 percent of the population earns an average monthly salary of S$1,500 ($991).
But Lee Kuan Yew -- modern Singapore's first prime minister, who is still the leading voice in his son's cabinet -- will have none of it.
"The cure to all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government," Lee senior told the Straits Times on Thursday, adding that it is "absurd" for Singaporeans to quarrel about ministerial pay and warned that Singapore would suffer it the government could not pay competitive salaries.
"Your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people's countries," he said.
For starters, we will revisit an old post of Mr Wang's, from June 2005. Back then, the Straits Times reported that the bottom 20% of wage earners in Singapore earn less than $1,200 a month. Mr Wang had then proceeded to compare the earning power of such Singaporeans, to the earning power of foreign domestic workers in Singapore:
Let's take a moment to think about the earning power of (1) Singapore's poorer citizens and (2) Singapore's foreign maids.The basic idea is quite simple. Although foreign maids get low salaries in Singapore, their employer covers almost all their necessary expenses - food, accommodation, utilities, medical care etc. When you factor all that in, you will see that the average foreign maid's earnings are quite comparable to the earnings of the average Singaporean in the bottom 20% .
Let's say Madam Jin Pai Mia is a 55-year-old spinster belonging to the Low-Income Singaporean category. She works as a cleaner in a commercial office building and earns $900 a month.
Madam Jin takes the MRT to and from work every day. That's about $1.50 x 2 x 24 days = $72 a month. She pays about $60 for her water and electricity bills at home. She eats three meals a day, each costing an average of $3.00. That's $3.00 x 3 meals x 30 days = $270 a month on food. Let's say Madam Jin falls sick once in a while and needs to see the doctor. We'll put it at $20 a month. She rents a flat from the HDB. Let's say it's $250 a month (I don't know how much it costs - it's just my guesstimate).
That's $672 on basic stuff like transportation, water, electricity, food, medical care and accommodation. After deducting $672 from Madam Jin's monthly salary of $900, she's left with $228.
Now, a foreign domestic maid gets about $300 a month. However, the maid does not need to spend money on public transport to get to work each day. Her employer pays the electricity and water bills and provides three meals a day. The maid's accommodation is essentially free. If the maid falls ill, the employer is, by law, responsible for her medical expenses.
So when the maid gets $300 a month, the maid really earns $300 a month.
However, when Madam Jin gets $900, she's really earning just $228 a month.
Thus, we can say that one in five Singaporeans is no better off than a foreign maid. If we use Lee Kuan Yew's suggested methodology, we would begin to develop strong suspicions that our PAP ministers are not very competent, after all.
However, the relevant statistic - that the bottom 20% of wage earners in Singapore earn less than $1,200 a month - is an old one, from 2005. Perhaps things have improved since then? After all, our PAP ministers can't be that incompetent, can they?
Alas. According to this Straits Times report in 2007, things seem to have only become worse. Not only has the average income of the bottom 20% of Singaporeans not risen, the average income of the bottom 30% has actually fallen.
Now, if we should once again adopt Mr Lee's methodology, we cannot help but be struck by the aptness of his words. All these years, our ministers have already been receiving the world's highest ministerial salaries. Yet all these years, Singaporeans seem to have indeed been suffering from a "strong dose of incompetent government".