Jan 13, 2009

Ministerial Salaries And A Sentimental Stroll Down Memory Lane

Time flies, and it flies especially fast in cyberspace. 21 months ago, Singaporeans questioned the need for our government ministers to raise their world-class salaries to even greater highs, and Lee Kuan Yew replied indignantly as follows:
"You know, the cure for all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government. You get that alternative and you'll never put Singapore together again: Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again... and your asset values will disappear, your apartment will be worth a fraction of what it is, your jobs will be in peril, your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people's countries, foreign workers." - (Straits Times, 5 April 2007)
And isn't all very ironic? Click on the links, if you don't know why. You gotta hand it to Senior Lee, sometimes he can be really prophetic.

Maybe we should give them another pay raise, before we get another good dose of incompetent government.

86 comments:

The said...

Mr Wang, how come you left out the more relevant and interesting parts? I suggest those who wanted market-linked pay should go and join Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers...

http://sharontan.nomadlife.org/2007/04/more-from-mm-lee-kuan-yew.aspx

/// But they are handling over US$100 billion (S$151 billion). They make a mistake, we lose $10, $20, $30 billion overnight when the stock market collapses.

So for the average family earning $1,500, $3,000, we are talking of astronomical figures.

But for people in government like me, having to deal with these sums of money which we have accumulated through the sweat of our brow over the last 40 years, you have to pay the market rate or the man will up stakes and join Morgan Stanley or Lehman Brothers or Goldman Sachs. And then you've got an incompetent man and you've lost money, by the billions.

So get a sense of proportion. ///

Anonymous said...

Another self-phrophecy is coming true and that is the need for more security personnel which they had the 'foresight' to start recruiting some months back.

Now, someone decided to set an MP on fire and my guess is that the additional security personnel will really be needed after all, to guard our Ministers and MPs. Our leaders really do think well ahead. They really are worth every penny of the millions they are paid for, just for being able to see into the future.

Anonymous said...

Wang, now near CNY. Last time CNY the Bak Kuwa queue is long until cannot say. Now got queue?

Hehehe sign of worse yet to come. Incompetent gahmen? Wa who ask you all to make Mr Lee donate his increment! Now he cannot go Lehman and Goldman also, how?

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, I am rather disappointed by the lack of perspective and unwarranted sarcasm in this post. Singapore is a price-taker, and its current turmoils are repercussions from greater troubles overseas, which are beyond the control of the government. Unless we disengage from the global market, it is impossible for us to be unscathed.

A high salary is a necessary incentive for enticing talents to join the civil service, if not, what is stopping them from reaping in the opportunities of the private sector? Or should we just depend sorely on the goodness of people's hearts to serve the country? Let us to be realistic and realize the absurdity of such a suggestion in a capitalistic society of only 4 million.

harmindersingh said...

@ Anonymous: How long more will S'pore be using its population ("society of only 4 million") as an excuse? It's been around since the population was 2 million, and I can bet it will still be used when there are 6.5 million pp here.

doubling the population hasn't seemed to make a difference in the numbers of civic-minded people willing to serve in government.. or has it?

You need some meaningful data (e.g. how many potential ministers gave "low salaries" as an excuse for not joining, or how many current ministers are in government for the money and not for helping their nation develop) to figure out the truth of such arguments.

Since such data is impossible to get, the PAP's arguments are mere conjectures.

Anonymous said...

Let those who hunger after riches run after riches where it is found, in the private sector. Let those who desire to serve the populace be a servant to the public.

Look to Wall Street to see twhat happening to the idea of
Extraordinary pay = Extraordinary talent = Extraordinary performance

It doesn't take much to blame the current turmoil on externalities. In the same way that it doesn't take much to attribute good times to one's own talent.

fr0z said...

"current turmoils are repercussions from greater troubles overseas, which are beyond the control of the government."

I think that is exactly Mr Wang's point; a government, no matter how competent, will not be able to shield us from what is happening. And yet MM Lee says they can, provided we entice the "right people" to the jobs with good pay.

To think that this is nothing but a fear tactic is to be naive.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Right. To put it simply, the PAP's marketing pitch runs something like this:

1. "All good things that happen to Singapore are as a result of our superb leadership"

2. "All bad things that happen to Singapore are as a result of external factors in the big bad world"

3. "Pay us the world's highest ministerial salaries or else many bad things will happen to Singapore (among them - we'll become corrupt and raid the nation's coffers; or run off to join the private sector)"

There are at least four or five highly dubious propositions in the three sentences above. As for Singaporeans who can't see any of them .... well, I guess they got taken in by the marketing pitch.

Anonymous said...

"Singapore is a price-taker, and its current turmoils are repercussions from greater troubles overseas, which are beyond the control of the government."

Strange to say this, then wanting to let our leaders who are price takers in their economic capabilities become price setters in global ministerial salaries.

Wang worshipper said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Wang, not directly relevant, but does bursts another myth on why SG needs more foreigners and migrants due to aging population.

Copied from another forum.

"our gahmen got pay for pension or social welfare for retirement? No right? So that means our tax money not used to pay for aged people right? So that means the working people who are paying tax are not paying for retirement funds of those retiring right? So that means the myth that we need more young people to work to pay for retirees funding is bullshit right?

Then there is CPF to pay for retirement right? Gahmen say one. That is why always up the minimum sum what. So our world best paid gahmen already got calculated perfectly, since our PM is discrete maths expert like he says, confirm got enough to pay for retiree survival one right?

And last of all, this is the gahmen the retirees have voted in when the young were not old enough to vote right? So the retirees must now reap what they sow and trust in right? No need to say population young or old right?"

Anonymous said...

this should not have happened. what to do. move on.

Anonymous said...

As long as there is weak or no credible opposition you will have such irony.

And can do nothing about it except to rant and release steam in blogs.

But frankly I am concerned when the old man pass away. Will Singapore become much worse without him to mentor around?

Onlooker said...

And those who do were effectively silenced.
In the end it either fight or flight and I regret this fact that given an uncaring and unforgiving climate here most will choose flight.
The land we lived on is no longer Singaporean Singapore any more.
It has become a haven for the selected few(esp the rich exiles ,tyrants and fugitives).

Twentyfour_sucks said...

Everyone, PLEASE PLEASE remember that LKY is a politician. His words are as valid as your fart, i.e. when the smell is gone, it's gone.

Anonymous said...

As long as there is weak or no credible opposition you will have such irony.


Another fallacy engineered to hoodwink Singaporeans.

Singapore under the PAP is a defacto dictatorship. To even start talking about weak or credible opposition is already missing the picture.

Anonymous said...

Credible what? We let the "credible" people screw us for so many years and you say the opposition don't have people who are not credible enough to give us the same epic fail or worse failure?

Hahahahahahaha

Anonymous said...

in sg, check and balances are a myth....up to a certain pt.

opposition? pls. you can replace 2/3 of them and you can't even move sh*t.lol.

the current slate of oppositions mostly want to enjoy the prestige of political life. at best, you get the whimpers of ltk or cst. typical useless seat warmers.

so yeah, i agree with anon 3:03

Anonymous said...

how many govt people actually want to leave for pte sector? the majority (minus the exceptional ones) are deadwood who can't move because they can't find takers outside

I for one know a lot of them stay on in govt so as not to lose the hospitalisation benefits (till death for him and spouse)
also, for the consistent bonus and job stability, compared over time it is equal or better than most people outside

Anonymous said...

TO Anon, 9.50pm,

I say, those individuals who want to stay in private sector, let them stay there.

They are people who WANT to serve the public. these are the people who should be in the civil service.

Right now, we have senior govt officials who only do things to please their boss, cover backside first, point fingers when things go wrong, and most disappointingly, elitist-thinking individuals who has lost touch, and treat engagement with their masses with disdain.

This was most obvious when i saw clips of the Transport Minister and how he spoke to the public, how he shook hands etc. He looked like he really cant be bothered.

sgcynic said...

My boss would kick me in the butt instead of giving me a raise long before he gets a good dose of incompetence. He gives a raise only when people deserve it.

"Maybe we should give them another pay raise, before we get another good dose of incompetent government." Yah right, only in uniquely Singapore.

Eaststopper said...

Dear Mr Wang,
I beg to differ from your views.
I think of my conversations with my Lebanese colleagues in Paris, the Afghan taxi driver in London and the Icelandic marathon runners I ran my first marathon with in Reykjavik. The economic and political costs to a nation due to poor governance can be fatal. No amount of money in the world can reverse those mistakes.
When I see the fragility of our existence in this world against the backdrop of nations which have tried and failed, I am grateful to our past and current crop of leaders. The situation now could have very well been much much worse.

Best,
Eaststopper

singaporecitizen said...

"Dear Mr Wang,
I beg to differ from your views.
I think of my conversations with my Lebanese colleagues in Paris, the Afghan taxi driver in London and the Icelandic marathon runners I ran my first marathon with in Reykjavik. The economic and political costs to a nation due to poor governance can be fatal. No amount of money in the world can reverse those mistakes.
When I see the fragility of our existence in this world against the backdrop of nations which have tried and failed, I am grateful to our past and current crop of leaders. The situation now could have very well been much much worse.

Best,
Eaststopper"

and i beg to differ from yours too. you claim that no amount of money can reverse these mistakes. so you are implying that paying very high salaries, out of the world salaries, will prevent such mistakes? i think this is complete bullshit as you can see from the past year's events. and yes go ahead and blame global factors. i am sure global factors DIDNT play a role in good times, but only their talents did.complete bullshit.

Anonymous said...

To anon @ January 14, 2009 5:16 PM

As an ex-civil servant, I know for myself that there is a number of scholars who want to leave the service but can't as they're bonded (unless they pay).

And by the time their bond ends which is 4 -6 years, they're already in their late 20s - early 30s, with no direct relevant skills for the private sector.

Anonymous said...

"No amount of money in the world can reverse those mistakes."

In the long run, all mistakes can be corrected.

Just like PAP said, everything must be long run vision. So you suffer in the short run first.

Only thing is, the short run seems to be forever.

Anonymous said...

"The economic and political costs to a nation due to poor governance can be fatal. No amount of money in the world can reverse those mistakes."

I agree to that statement, but that shouldn't be used as an excuse to "self-service" their salary like a buffet.

Balance is the key word, not extreme.

If everyone think like you, i think our leaders can increase their salary another 10x which is still within the range of "sense of proportion". lol

Jimmy Mun said...

Eaststopper,

well said! You hit the nail right on your head!

Had PAP ran Lebanon, the Palestinian conflict would not have spilled over. Had PAP ran Afghanistan, Soviet Union would be too chicken to invade.

Indeed, the financial mess in Iceland is because their government officials and bankers were underpaid compared to their Singaporean counterparts, so the best and brightest all chose to play soccer instead.

A PAP ran nation, as shown by Singapore, is totally immune to geographical and geopolitical realities. Any shit hole can be turned into a prosperous place with a dose of PAP brilliance.

Just take a look at how PAP replicated their success in the second Singapore - Suzhou Industrial Park! If it werent for Singaporeans running the place, it would be in a worst state than Lebanon and Afghanistan, combined with a erratic sun that sometimes refuse to set! It's a fatal dose of incompetence that whiny Singaporeans cant understand.

Onlooker said...

Who knows he could have engineered it to goes this way.
A lot of prescience are actually events that were plotted and hatched in the past to ensure one's prosperity vs the commonwealth good.
Britain FOIA actually cleared up the air on a lot of events and what really happen to Lim chin song whose responsible for the rise of nationalistic values (whose entry on Wikipedia is even now being attacked by political vandals with a lot of suggestive adjective like suicidal etc etc to paint him in a bad light) which are later subverted by a Japanese translator whom no doubt have a heroic escape from death by causing the deaths of others in the act of self preservation.
Who knows maybe the recent spate of bad investments on account of his in laws in regional and global trade could have made him create yet another situation where he hope to capitalized and preserve himself and his family yet again.
But one thing is for sure all those investment in life extension technology would not help him because the only equalizer in life is death.
And after that event passed,with no incentive to promote a dead man image and the truth will finally came to light but at the price of sufferings which are exacerbated by the brutal truths of those who would be the peons of the Li(ee)ch.
PS the brutal truth is only brutal to those who were spoke down by others(esp the self proclaim genetically superior with albino and autistic Elites. strange no? afflictions do not discriminate who it affect).
Why then did airy published a autobiography prior to his demise?
If not for the fact that he want to die with a good reputation but the situations now does not allow for it.
And that book too whitewashed all the true events that happened.
As the saying goes, You can fool some all the time(the peons),You can fool all some of the time(in the beginning at least b4 british FOIA but you can't fool all all the time(the wisdom)).
The hatchet man tactics will prove to be his undoings as a benevolent? speaker whose dictated words are as golden as the liquid waste product that can cause urea poisoning when you hold it in for too long.

Anonymous said...

Who is responsible and contributed the most in the creation of this nation Singapore?

Without him, Singapore will never be born?

Lim Chin Siong.

Anonymous said...

"Balance is the key word, not extreme.

If everyone think like you, i think our leaders can increase their salary another 10x which is still within the range of "sense of proportion". lol"

Kinda slippery slope reasoning. Self-service also must do reality check. Which is why gahman leading paycut and dishing out more jobs. Why?

I think you are the one without balance. :P

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Mun,

"Any shit hole can be turned into a prosperous place with a dose of PAP brilliance."

I second you. The MM of '65 would be surprised at our success today.

I suppose the Malaysian PRs find this shit hole so comfortable that they are willing to contribute CPF, while our citizens are leaving by the dozens.

Eaststopper said...

Mr Wang, perhaps you could stand up for our country and become a minister and fight the injustices of high ministerial salaries?
I wonder how many of us here reading this blog are capable and confident to assume a ministerial position? Please stand up for the next election (and ask for a lower pay). I will definitely consider
:-)

Anonymous said...

Please stand up for the next election (and ask for a lower pay). I will definitely consider
:-)


Wa you so fast paint all Ministers become money grabbing people! You bad leh you!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wang thank you for the post and thanks to the wonderful internet without which most people would have forgotten what some of the things people have said in the past much less link back to what is being said later. No wonder our leaders are afraid of the internet.

Anonymous said...

Blogger Eaststopper said...

" Mr Wang, perhaps you could stand up for our country and become a minister and fight the injustices of high ministerial salaries?
I wonder how many of us here reading this blog are capable and confident to assume a ministerial position? Please stand up for the next election (and ask for a lower pay). I will definitely consider"

They say an opinion is like an arsehole, everyone has one, including you. If what you read is not acceptable, go somewhere where everyone sing praises of our ruling elites, and you can join the chorus. Only immatured people will respond to criticisms that voiced their disagreements with some policies and actions by saying such things like, "so you think you can do better?" etc. If a person like Dr. Chee and before him J.B. Jeyaratnam has suffered so much personally, would any one dare attempt the same? Don't be a fool.

Fargoal said...

How much of a salary should a Minister get? I've always wondered if we could arrive at a reasonable answer that makes everyone happy (or equally unhappy).

As a benchmark, if we were to ask every voting citizen to come up with a figure and take the average, what do you think we will get?

your loyal reader said...

Hi Mr wang,

So you don't think that your current pay package was the indirect result of our good government, but purely your own ability and nothing else.

I have followed your blog and I could not help but sense 2 possible scenarios in your life:

1.) You were once being asked for a preliminary interview with the PAP but they didn't think you were good enough, thus that sour tone about the high ministerial pay.

2.) They have never invited you but you think you are much better than some of the younger PAP MPs and thus deserve more pay if not the same as them, thus that sour tone about the high ministerial pay.

Jimmy Mun said...

I think Singaporeans are just so whiny. What is so wrong with paying our ministers more money?

It's obvious running a government requires the exact same skillset and temperament as running an investment bank.

That's why if SBS were to spend millions to hire the Michael Schumachers to drive our buses, we would all enjoy the fastest bus service in the world.

Same thing with the Bush admin. All those CEOs in his cabinet, from Cheney to O'Neill to Rumsfeld to Paulson. You already know they are going to fail, because they have to take a steep pay cut. If they are paid closer to their CEO pay, they might actually take their job seriously and not monkey around.

It is a fact that if we dont pay our cabinet ministers millions, the Morgan Stanleys and the Citigroups will.

For example, the cream of the crop, PM material who leave the cabinet, the likes of Dhanabalan, Yeo Ning Hong, Lim Chee Onn and Tony Tan are all going to be appointed CEO or Chairman of Citigroup, JPMC, Bank of America, RBS, earning more astronomical figures than a peasant can fathom.

You know I'm right. You just slowly wait.

Anonymous said...

Investment bankers in London, NY and even HK have MUCH higher pay packages.

Jimmy Mun said...

Why sour grapes Wang should stop whining about ministerial pay:

1) Studies have shown that human beings know how much money is too much. We wont eat until our stomach burst, similarly we will not want more money than we need. And unlike stomachs which can grow larger with excess food, leading to bigger appetites, human greed is inelastic. Just pay the ministers enough, and they lose all interest in money.

2) Ministers and civil servants will not lose touch with the grassroots. Because they are elite, they are all-knowing all-feeling, so they can never lose touch with the poorest constituencies. Tan Yong Soon could very well said "Let them eat cake!", but he didn't, right? He has demonstrated infinite sensitivity to the anxiety of Singaporeans!

3) How do we know they are the best? We could benchmark them with other nations with small population and little natural resources. Like Iceleand or Ireland or Hong Kong. But setting standards so high may discourage our ministers, so let's be realistic. Besides, we know their governance sucks, and it is down to dumb luck in the good times.

As long as Singapore does better than Malaysia in the good times, we will call them the bestest government in the world.

And in bad times? Let's not bother our ministers too much. We know they are incredibly pissed and moody every time they had to suffer a pay cut even though there is nothing they can do but wait for US to fix itself. So we have to help them re-establish their self-esteem and not laugh too loud if they claim to be the bestest in the world.

4) There is no possibility they will game the system. See 1). Since they are paid enough, they will not have any desire to create circumstances that will inflate their pay. Like say, attracting MNCs to set up regional HQs in Singapore with incredibly generous tax breaks, and then using those regional heads as their benchmark.

Similarly, they will not raise the pay of the heads of GLCs excessively and then using that pay both as benchmark and the opportunity cost of the typical minister.

5) Ever since Singapore started paying the highest ministerial salary in the world, the Singapore economy had leapfrogged all past performance. When Singapore ministers were underpaid and unmotivated, Singapore can only be one of the four little asian dragons. But thanks to the motivation from the millions, Singapore is in our golden age!

Anonymous said...

Cheney and Paulson were all working for a certain Nixon.

Paulson in particular had a signing bonus of about usd$500M. tax free. Paid by Goldman which is likely to be one of the few US bank left standing. They have done exactly what they were paid for.

Comparing our jokers to these titans is an insult.

Tony and Dhana (despite what u think) had both actually contributed to our relative success. Lim Chee Oon isn't fit to shine their shoes.

Anonymous said...

"There are at least four or five highly dubious propositions in the three sentences above. As for Singaporeans who can't see any of them .... well, I guess they got taken in by the marketing pitch."

Hi Wang,

I tried not to ask, otherwise, I would look like most Singaporeans, but my curiousity took the best of me, and I just have to ask... can u list me the 4 or 5 dubious propositions for each sentence.. cos I really cannot think further...

pai seh... Moomooman

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang,

I think that you may have tried to influence everyone by putting "links" to each of MM Lee's quote, to back up your arguments.

However, some of these links are not exactly right.

"....and your asset values will disappear"

True enuff, share prices did drop drastically.. but it did not disappear.


"your apartment will be worth a fraction of what it is"

The link provided only show a steep drop in numbers of transactions, not real prices.

"our women will become maids in other people's countries, foreign workers."

Someone else' opinions.

Eaststopper said...

Hmmm, seems like I am being screwed by the various anons in this post. Hahaha ... But seriously I do feel that this salary issue is subjective to the perceptor.
Say my annual income is about 150k GBP, and I give consulting advise to organizations with annual revenue of 1bn USD. So to me, the ministerial salaries are not high at all, considering that Singapore's GDP is approx 300bn USD a year.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Mun, which planet are you living in? Your arguments are totally out of touch with what has been happening. The analogy about hiring a race driver driving buses at super speeds is pretty laughable. Surely you can come up with something better as a comparison?

The organisations you mentioned are in their death throes or in the verge of dying. Citigroup? They are splitting and have lost billions in assets. Investment banks? The world's current economy crisis was because of the collapse of several of them.

We do not know why all those Singapore Leaders you named left the services of the government. Obviously, for personal reasons, and these reasons are privy only to themselves and few others. There have been some conjectures and whisperings, but only those who walk in the corridors of power have some knowledge as to why they resigned. So you have some knowledge about Citigroup and others headhunting for these brilliant chaps? I thought Citigroup is firing, not hiring. You don't know that nowadays, certain rules have been set and stipulated regarding the salaries and bonuses of top management of such institutions? That some CEO's has even repaid back the bonuses they took?

Please read what Mr. Wang has written plus the links. What reasons LKY gave when there were unhappiness about the high pay given to Singapore ministers. Let me highlight:

We pay high salaries in order that,
a. Our asset values will not disappear
b. Our apartments will not be worth a fraction of what it is
c. Our jobs will not be in peril
d. Our security will not be at risk
e. Our women will not become maids in other people's countries, foreign workers

So now we whine because there are signs that these things are starting to happen, contrary to the reasonings given for paying our ministers world class salaries.

harmindersingh said...

@ Jimmy Mun: Singaporeans are unhappy about paying their ministers high salaries for 2 reasons:

1) Some of us feel that this practice attracts the wrong kinds of people into public service- those who seek to enrich themselves, not to improve the lot of their community and nation.

If you think this point is bunk, then:
2) Involvement in public service brings a lot of perks with it, e.g. name recognition, discounted services/supplies, post-retirement sinecures (like the ones you mentioned) etc. These do not constitute corruption, per se, and are an unavoidable part of being involved with the "right" party in politics. So, saying that high salaries are necessary to attract talent from the private sector is disingenuous, because this talent gains a lot more than $$ when s/he enters politics with the "winning team".

I'm willing to bet that, if you quantify the value of the perks MPs and ministers (and their families) receive over their lives, the figure will be much, much more than what they claim to have lost by not working in the private sector.

That's why in countries which do not pay ministers millions (almost the entire developed world), there are still smart, talented people willing to join politics.

Hope this has convinced you, Jimmy

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

Pardon me,one of yr readers Eastopper speaks like a real expert until I came to this sentence:

Singapore's GDP is approx 300bn USD a year.

I wonder where he gets this figure,or he is just another PAP I.B,whose motto is to mix 1/4 truth,1/2 truth,3/4 truth with full truth.

Of course there ia another possibility,that this self- procalimed wise man knows nothing about economy actually.

Very sorry to intrude.

soojenn said...

Jimmy Mun said "Just take a look at how PAP replicated their success in the second Singapore - Suzhou Industrial Park! If it werent for Singaporeans running the place, it would be in a worst state than Lebanon and Afghanistan, combined with a erratic sun that sometimes refuse to set! It's a fatal dose of incompetence that whiny Singaporeans cant understand.".

This must be the joke of town. Is he involved in this project? Success? what is Mr. Mun defination of success? The Suzhou project was a MAJOR disaster in commercial terms and wasted tax payers money, and was making major losses. We are not into business using tax payers money to beautify a place!! The Singapore governement run by PAP set up an industrial park which was an empty wasteland, paid millions to set up the infrastructure only to be beaten by the locals in Suzhou, who set up their own industrial park next to it without having to bear the cost for the infrastructure for the water, power, etc.., (by just tapping into it conveniently) in the park set up by Singapore in collaboration with the central government. Hence the lower costs than the park built by Singapore, which ended up with more business and success. The Singapore built Suzhou park was making major losses until othe Singapore government could not handle it any more and was handed over to the local provincial government to handle, after writting off the major losses. Ask the people who we enticed by the governement to go set up shop there. You will hear a totally different picture.

Jimmy also said "I think Singaporeans are just so whiny. What is so wrong with paying our ministers more money?" - what's right with paying them so much money. Kuan Yew says that otherwise we will then get a good dose of incompetent government? Aren't we getting one now. Four of the things he listed is happening right in our eyes, in the golden age as LKY has proclaimed will happen. Our (i) asset values appear to be disappearing and the apartments will be worth a fraction (ii) jobs are already in peril with retrenchment starting from the major bank in Singapore starting the ball rolling (iii) security will be at risk - we now have a case which is unprecedented of injury to a public servant for the reasons that the governement appear to be totally unprepared and unaware? (iv) women will become maids - the governement has recommended that our old people, women to work longer and consider working in the hotel as chambermaids - a miad by any other name is a maid.

The said...

Sigh....

For those who are criticizing Jimmy Mun, I suggest you read his posts again - this time s-l-o-w-l-y.

Then again, sometimes I really think the average Singaporean just cannot discern satire, spoof and sarcasm, even if they hit them in the face.

Sad...

Anonymous said...

Blogger The said...

" Sigh....

For those who are criticizing Jimmy Mun, I suggest you read his posts again - this time s-l-o-w-l-y.

Then again, sometimes I really think the average Singaporean just cannot discern satire, spoof and sarcasm, even if they hit them in the face.

Sad..."

Satire, Spoof and sarcasm? If Jimmy Mun wants to emulate Lucky Tan which you say is satire and whatnot, it totally failed! In fact many Singaporeans including Eaststopper are mouthing the same adulations of the PAP-led government, my family included. Go to Lucky Singaporean's Blog to know what is satire.

Mr Wang Says So said...

Actually it was obvious to me that Jimmy was being satirical / sarcastic.

I was a bit surprised by the number of readers who did not "get it".

Eaststopper said...

Oops, thanks for pointing out anon @ 10.26am. My bad - Singapore's GDP is approx 150 USD averaged based on figures released by the statistics bureau of Singapore as well as from the IMF.

IMF: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2006/01/data/dbcselm.cfm?G=203
Singapore Stats: http://www.singstat.gov.sg/stats/themes/economy/hist/gdp2.html

Bon weekend everyone!

Anonymous said...

"Satire, Spoof and sarcasm? If Jimmy Mun wants to emulate Lucky Tan which you say is satire and whatnot, it totally failed!"

It does serve its purpose.

For those who are able to see through, good.

For those who do not see through, they rebut and effectively deliver the gist of the message of what Jimmy has intended in the first place.

The beauty of it. You still get what needs to be done either ways.

The said...

/// Satire, Spoof and sarcasm? If Jimmy Mun wants to emulate Lucky Tan which you say is satire and whatnot, it totally failed! In fact many Singaporeans including Eaststopper are mouthing the same adulations of the PAP-led government, my family included. Go to Lucky Singaporean's Blog to know what is satire.
January 17, 2009 6:36 PM ///

Anon at 6:36 PM - wow, you really outdone yourself. Never seen so many logical flaws in one short sentence.

First, is Lucky Tan the epitome of satire? Does he have a monopoly on sarcasm? Yes, I have been to his site many times, and yes, many knaves and half-wits are taken in by him and started to attack him for his supposed love of the PAP.

Second, Jimmy Mun didn't fail at all. He made suckers and fools out of you and your ilk. You are doing the dirty work of running down the PAP for him and he is clutching his belly, laughing at your naivete and stupidity. This is the classic "borrow knife to kill someone".

Third, Eaststopper did not even refer to Jimmy Mun's posts. It was Jimmy Mun who used Eaststopper post to egg others on - clueless sluggers like you who do not know that you have been made used of.

Yes, I have been to Lucky Tan's site long before you discovered it. And yes, there are plenty of people like you in Lucky Tan's site attacking Lucky Tan like what you did to Jimmy Mun.

No, Jummy Mun's satire was successful - it made fools out of you and you didn't realize it. It shows the world that you can read English, but do not understand its nuances. It is fashionable to be anti-government, but, really, you should start to do some introspection to see who are on you side.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang,

You are doing a great disservice to the country at this time trying to undermine the very foundation of governance.

Your write-up is simply mischievious.

What solutions do you offer for this GLOBAL downturn.? It's arguably the greatest financial tsunami yet the world is going to face. I doubt even Obama can put humpty-dumpty back together again.

Under normal circumstances our government has been delivering par excellence output. Way above any countries in ASEAN, Asia or the free world. We've had 45 good years after leaving Malaysia. Creditable indeed for one without the economies of scale or any mineral resources. Our reserves and per capita income are testimony and the envy of the entire world!

But you can have the best crew. So what? When all the airports around the world today have been rigged with holes after the bombings, how do you land safely?

Fortunately, we have the still reserves. What if the dark clouds don't lift any sooner and the reserves have been used up?

Surely, you won't want to provoke the unintended unthinkable from happening by your easy writing.

This is our home!

Mr Wang Says So said...

"What solutions do you offer for this GLOBAL downturn?"

Sorry, you're mistaken. I am not the person who said that if I don't get paid enough, your asset values will disappear; your apartment will fall in value; your country will become unsafe and your mother will become a maid.

The said...

/// We've had 45 good years after leaving Malaysia.
January 19, 2009 9:54 AM ///

Anon above.

Ironic, isn't it? For the first 30 years or so, growth was good and politicians' pay was "normal", and corruption was kept to a minimum.

Then, in the past ten years or so, politicians' pay went through the roof, and economic growth was not so good and corruption is creeping up.

You mention GLOBAL downturn, implying that the politicians cannot do anything about it. Yet, when times are good, these politicians will be the first to claim credit. Indeed, the justification for high pay is that great politicians can produce great results. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I think you are taking MM Lee speech out of context and blow it out of proportion. At this economic downturn started by US. Can you tell me which countries are not affected? At least when the market is good, Spore is also at the upward trend as compare to our neighboring countries. No matter good or bad economic, their people always suffer.
Is a tough job to be our ministers? When you did well no one praise you but if you did or said something wrong you will be penalized. I rather be a doctor, big pay cheque plus the patients are all so thankful J And I can lead a high life like nobody business. U think our ministers can do that? Pls be grateful and contented la.

Anonymous said...

Any fool would understand what the MM meant with regards to ministerial performance.

Under NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES Singapore has indeed surged past many countries economically despite its minuscule size and lack of natural resources.

Currently, the "impasse" it's an exception. An atypical case. Those who studied economics would have easily understood the dire situation.

There are simply few or no buyers of goods and services internationally. So we produce for who and for what when there is no demand? Looks like everyone is going broke. How to import? Hutang?

This is beyond any great man let alone MM and his team.

We would be quite okay if we had land to at least grow our own crops and rear our own animals for food. Do you know when and how wars are initiated?

Anonymous said...

Actually the real problem is that there is no control over the ministerial salaries. That is what Singaporeans are (validly) upset about.

The ministers create their own formula and then they pay themselves according to it. Who's to stop them? No one.

They were already receiving the world's highest ministerial salaries, and they still went ahead to increase their salaries a few more times.

Should this be a concern to Singaporeans? Seriously, the answer must be .... yes, definitely.

You know, if they were ranked World No. 56 .... or World No. 35 ... or even World No. 12, for highest salaries, I probably wouldn't be worried.

But they are already the world's highest-paid ministers, and their salaries STILL went up?

It is only the blind and foolish who will not acknowledge that there is a grave issue of public interest here.

Anonymous said...

There's no point citing Singapore's lack of natural resources, limited land size etc etc. Because every country in the world has its own own unique set of challenges and difficulties.

We could have been in an earthquake zone like Japan. Or located next to a loony country like North Korea. Or subject to -20 degree winters. Or have a really huge population like Indonesia, which is much, much more difficult than handle than 5 million people. Or be really small, like the Vatican. Or have large desert areas like Australia.

Singaporeans need to get rid of their whiney, loser mindset. When Singapore says, "Oh we so poor thing, so small, so little land, so little water ...", it IS exhibiting a whiney, loser mindset. To move forward, we have to be bold and forward-looking and face up to our own challenges. As I mentioned, EVERY country in the world has its own challenges.

Of course, I must say that the PAP government exploits that whiney, loser mindset to its own advantage very well, expanding it to say: "Oh we so poor thing, so small, so little land, so little water ... and that's why we must support the wonderful PAP"

Anonymous said...

"But they are already the world's highest-paid ministers, and their salaries STILL went up? "
Methinks the answer lies in the secret formula they devised for their paycheck. One clue came about when Raymond Lim revealed that bus fares were calculated to factor in inflation and other factors. Now everyone knows the CPI, the measure of inflation, is a basket of indices which includes the cost of transportation. So they have this scam of spiralling increases that defy gravity!

Anonymous said...

Reply to January 19, 2009 4:26 PM's blogger.

Apparently you didn't study Economics (from reading your write-up).

Let's do some simple Economics. Do you know why one hardly finds a provision shop beside say, a mega or supermart like NTUC Supermart? Simple. Unlike the latter it has no economies of scale like breaking the bulk to compete.

Next, did you know city states like Singapore don't survive long? How many city-states are there on the planet today and how many are in the same first world league like Singapore? You'll be surprised to learn that we're the one and only!

Finally, large countries like China and Indonesia can absorb massive calamities and move on albeit poorer e.g. Sichuan earthquake and Aceh Tsunami. Singapore? Don't tickle my toes.

Finally, when our overseas markets dry up, our reserves will also dry up feeding the unemployed. Common sense right? Since the world now can't afford to buy our goods and services where is income to come from to feed the 4.5 million Singaporeans? Our CPF perhaps? After that? That's why my fren city states don't last. Big countries can, albeit a lower standard of living, eking out a livelihood by farming. Perhaps you might think we go to Chua Chu Kang and compete with the corpses?

Go back to JC and study the principles of economics. What a product!

Anonymous said...

Global downturn is unavoidable.yes I agree but need to add that the Wall street ba(n)kers should take the blame which most of them did,now Qing for dole,if any.

As for Singapore,no,someone must take the balme as there is no compelling reason to turn the red dot into the biggest punter in the world during the last decade.

Or is it gospel truth that we must punt,the biggest too.

Some one does not have a brain.my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

Wow,great but arrogant economist.I no economist,but pick a little here and there.

Would like yr great wison on what I think:
Truly appreciate.
There are 3 ways to increase the GDP of a country,increase in labour,increase in capital input and increase in productivity.

That is why American Paul Krugman who won this year's Nobel economics prize,after studying Singapore economic,declared that Spore growth is not substainable.

In his very American way of thinking,there is no way for Spore to increse labour supply and capital input,these are but limited resources,the only way for Spore to grow is to have more eductade workers and thus increase the productivity.That is how normal economy grows.

Little did Paul Krugman realised then that he was referring to one very special leader,one who comes along in every 10,000 years.

Increase in labour supply-no problem,we started fr 2.5 -3 million,now we are 4.8 million,and we are going 6-8 million.

Increase in capital input,no problem,put all the resources of the whole country under PAP,we would make all the investment decision,in one stroke,PAP became the biggest single investor in the whole world.

Except productivity growth,which is long,slow and very difficult,so they dont want to talk about it,in fact,our national productivity is going down,and our per-capita income in S$ is not growing mmuch,these are things they and 154th refuse to talk about.

Anonymous said...

Reply to January 19, 2009 4:26 PM's blogger.

Although you do talk sense,but I disagree with you that Spore has no natural resources.that is the traditional thinking and toatlly out of date in this 21st century.

I can name one big natural resouce that we hv,and that is our georgaphical location.

There is no nedd for me to elobarate how wonderful is this natural resource,suffice for me to shout

Location,location,location!

fr which how many billionaires are made in this world?

Think out of the PAP box,then we survive and prosper,we are global citizens remember!

The said...

/// Under NORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES Singapore has indeed surged past many countries economically despite its minuscule size and lack of natural resources.
January 19, 2009 2:48 PM ///

What about the flip side? Under normal circumstances, heck - under ANY circumstances, Singapore is indeed lacking in natural "resources":

Lack of earthquakes
Lack of tornadoes
lack of typhoons
Lack of hurricanes
Lack of volcanoes
Lack of tsunamis
Lack of snow/blizzard

How many billions were destroyed during Hurricane Katrina? And how many more billions are needed to repair the infrastructure and restore the services?

How many billions worth of property and damage were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, in the TangShan earthquake in 1976 and in the 2008 earthquake in SiChuan?

How much damage was done to Singapore in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami?

How much damage did Singapore suffer in the last 1,000 years due to earthquake, volcano, typhoon and other natural disasters?

Indeed, Singapore has no such natural resources...

Jimmy Mun said...

Under "normal" circumstances, it's not like Iceland, an island with 320,000 people and with few mentionable natural resources, has the higher GDP per capita, low GINI ratio, and kicks Singapore's ass in practically every single measure.

Under "normal" circumstances, it's not like Ireland, with a population of 4.2 million, has highest GDP growth in the world for years, as well as higher capita GDP, despite not having much natural resources either.

Anyway, it's not places like Monaco or Luxembourg even exist. Singapore is totally unique in being a prosperous place with a small population and no natural resources.

My "A" in my econs module in uni tells me so. ;)

Anyway, it's not like every primary school social studies textbook mentions Singapore has a wonderful geographical location, and it is not like Singapore is 8 hours flight from Tokyo as well as Sydney.

You see, if it weren't for the Magneto powers of the MM, ships would not start detouring towards Singapore in 1965. (Now you know the real reason why he is called MM)

Before 1965, Singapore is just a stinky fishing village with no economic activity whatsoever.

Damn, if only Stamford Raffles figured all these out 150 years earlier. Imagine what he could have done!

Ingrate Singaporeans should also bear in mind, that if it werent for PAP, Singapore, with our powder keg racial proportions and communists agitating for revolution, Singapore would have been DOOMED! Just take a look at the piece of Singapore that was ripped off in 1958, Christmas Island. Oh the inhumanity, after getting ravaged over and over again by racial riots and communist revolutions and repeated invasions by the Indonesians, I heard the people there live on bat shit.

Anyway, it's not like you can find Singapore Improvement Trust flats built there. HDB is a uniquely PAP idea.

Anyway, the MM cried tears of joy when he won his sovereignty in 1965. All his talk about merger with Malaysia was just wayang show. He foresaw how prosperous Singapore would be as an independent city state.

Had Singapore not won our independence and we stayed stuck with the British, we would be as badly run as, say Hong Kong. That would be so horrible indeed.

Anonymous said...

To Anon @ January 20, 2009 10:58 AM

Our geographical location is an ADVANTAGE not a natural resource. You may call it a geographical advantage thanks to nature, but please don't call it a natural resource.

Anyway if Singapore had any natural resources, we would be in a lot more trouble. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

Check this out. Knowing Dr Fareed Zakaria, an eminent US based political journalist, not known to patronize anyone.

Watch Lee Kuan Yew - Interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN @

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

Anonymous said...

Iceland has a HUGE fishing industry and abundant geothermal energy. Oh and by the way, Iceland is bankrupt now.

Ireland has oil and gas resources, and a highly developed and modern agricultural industry.

Luxembourg and Monaco has a MUCH longer history than Singapore, and them being more successful than Singapore DOES NOT take away from the fact that what has been achieved in Singapore has been quite a miracle.

I wish people will actually quote relevant facts, and quote them in perspective.

Robert L said...

Dear Mr Wang

Thank you for this article on Ministerial Salaries.

I have read through 69 responses and have yet to see anybody grasp the greatest truth of all regarding the myth of the Ministerial salaries.

The greatest truth is that the obscene salaries actually pose a barrier to block any honest and decent candidate from agreeing to join the PAP and the Cabinet. Think this through carefully - if there is any candidate who is honest and who care to render his services to the people of Singapore, would this person allow himself to draw this obscene salary?

In my view, the high Ministerial salaries are making it impossible for PAP to get honest citizens to join them. All those who do join them must necessarily put their conscience aside. That precludes honesty.

All those who do join them must necessarily be GREEDY. Q.E.D.

Anonymous said...

To sum it all.

Jealousy & Envy versus Greed.

For me and others who voted the PAP in since 1965 we don't care two hoots. So long as the job is done and people at large get the bread and butter on our table and also get to travel every year to sample reality checks elsewhere.

ILMA said...

Quote: Right. To put it simply, the PAP's marketing pitch runs something like this:

1. "All good things that happen to Singapore are as a result of our superb leadership"

2. "All bad things that happen to Singapore are as a result of external factors in the big bad world"

brilliantly put, Mr Wang. I think this sums up the issue here.

its a bit like a pseudo-religion too... good things happen to you, god is good... bad things happen to you, god works in mysterious ways...

Anonymous said...

Nothing beats this:-
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3YFl-dY9Qg

Anyway, we have tasted British rule, Japanese rule, David Marshall rule, Lim Yew Hock's rule, Malay rule (Malaysia) and 45 years of PAP rule todate. Just ask yourself honestly who's best (given that nothing's PERFECT in the world).

Btw, Monaco is the world's smallest FRENCH-speaking country. Big brother France will never let her down. It's actually a "dependency" of France. The hinterland is France and Europe. Luxemburg is a small landlocked country inside Western Europe and a part of EC and NATO using the euro. They are all Judeo-Christian ang mohs!

Singapore? Our neighbours? Malaysia and Indonesia? One threatens to cut off our water supply. SAF daily on TV is our deterrent if you aren't a blok. Big brother Indonesia recently cut off our sand and granite supply even despite our having poured millions of dollars into helping Aceh. These are green countries with green eyes!

Carry on dreaming . . . "Chinaman" cos u are perceived as one by them!

If u had the time u shd also sit down and watch how our great, wise leader LKY won Singapore for Singaporeans @
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0TSNy3Yk50&NR=1

We and our children in fact owe him a lot. This man is God-sent. Without him all of us will be "non-bumis" wondering abt our and our children's future every day.

Anonymous said...

Let's leave out the politics and focus on the economics for now.

Politics is a thing for the GE. After which losers and together with the winners must sit down and together solve the country's woes. The loserrs must stop the whining and condemnation. Provide meaningful feedback for the government of the day to consider. Leave the sabotage, blames, curses, etc., to the next election.

Look at Hilary Clinton.

Fargoal said...

Ministerial salary benchmarks are calculated from the salaries of the top 8 highest salaries from 6 professions.

The real question we should be asking is whether this is a good formula. If not, how can we improve it? What would make every Singaporean happy (or equally unhappy, i.e. a compromise by all)?

The said...

Fargoal,

That is a good question. My main grouse with the current formula is that it has a survivor bias. It is akin to buying your 4-D bets after the results are known and picking the first 3 winning numbers - sure win. I don't mind it they peg their salary to the champion horse - but please be decent and honest enough and stick with that particular horse. So, when next year, that champion horse breaks a leg and becomes fertilizer, too bad, you also become jobless.

Look at the real world. No employee can consistently maintain peak performance and command high salary over decades. The high earners in some years will become the jobless, become retrenched or suffer mental breakdown or sacked from the job. Shall we peg the salary of ministers to the top earners of Lehman Brothers? What are those folks earning now?

If the government is really serious about the Gini co-efficient and want to level up society, then a simple formula would be to link the salary to the bottom decile of the wage earners, instead of the top decile.

If the average monthly of the bottom decile (or 10th percentile) of Singapore worker is, say, $1,600, then pay the Ministers 100 times that, or $160,000 a month, or $1.92 million before bonuses.

This way, there is the incentive to really bring up the lower strata of society. One easy way to reward themselves is to quickly implement a minimum wage scheme. Although this will be really self-serving, but it will have the happy effect of bringing up the poor as well, and so the lesser of two evils.

I seriously think this is a workable solution. We can quibble whether it should be 100 times, or 50 times, or 150 times, but the main point is that it should be linked to the low-income group rather than the current system of linking to the high-income group.

Anonymous said...

Woo . . .

Tks Anon January 21, 2009 10:54 PM

The Taiwanese 6-parter is insightful. What revelation! Didn't know our MM did so much maneuvering to get us here. We also owe it to the Taiwanese.
who now feels slighted as MM is also courting China for Singapore's gains.
He has again to maneuver, inbetween China and Taiwan, given that we don't wish to offend either, given that China is the regional economic & military power and Taiwan our early benefactor.

Fargoal said...

To "The" (January 23, 2009 9:34 AM)

Thanks, that sounds like a sensible and reasonable suggestion.

If I may add, my quibble would be that the KPI for our Ministers should not be just raising the salaries of the low income or reducing the Gini coefficient. They should be responsible for other KPIs as well. Maintaining a good rate of economic growth, making the correct political decisions for our foreign policy, developing our nation's human resources, etc. Some of these things may not be easily quantifiable.

My question would be whether it is possible to come up with an alternative formula that captures the various KPIs that our Ministers are supposed to achieve. That is perhaps a more scientific way to look at this issue.

The said...

Fargoal,

The short answer is yes, but it would have to be different KPIs for different ministries. At the very top, we can have an overall KPI for economic performance. Say, the additional percentage points of GDP growth above the global average.(Or GDP per capita.) Say, if the world GDP growth is 2.5% and Singapore's is 5.0%, then we obviously outperform and should be rewarded accordingly. On the other hand, if the world is doing +2.0% and we are doing -2.0%, then what do we do? Cut their pay?

Conceptually, I am not in favour of KPIs for the government. We are not running a company. Many of the ills we are seeing now are due to the fact that the government is running Singapore Inc. Profit matters. Privatise those that are not profitable. Increase prices at will for the monopolies.

Some time back, I actually sat down and draw up 5 or 6 KPIs each for each Ministry.

Falcon said...

This salary hike is one of the few major strategic error that MM has made in his political life. Instead of preserving and cementing the stability of PAP in general and PM Lee in particular, this will turn out to be the one single decision which will be their own undoing.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah? You need high salaries so people will serve the government? Well, Singapore pays its civil servants the HIGHEST in the WHOLE WORLD, but do you see any other developed countries having any trouble finding civil servants? And don't give me that "four million people" crap. Even counties in America that only have 2,000 people can have 1% of the population perform community-benefiting jobs. In Singapore with 4 MILLION people, even 0.5% should get you 20,000 people, and with such high salaries, shouldn't it be 3%?

An American said...

Let's look at this from a logical point of view. Suppose you are making the rules and charging taxes and coining money. You decide you want more money. So you give yourself more money. Does that ensure you do a better job? No, it ensures that you become richer. Having multiple different branches of government, with each branch independent and capable of restraining other branches, along with accountability to the public, encourage people to govern better, not money. For example, in the USA, we have at least three branches of government (the legislative, judicial, and executive) and perhaps a fourth (the bureaucracy, which is nominally part of the executive branch, but which is often given free reign over some affairs by both the executive and legislative branches) and perhaps even a fifth (the media, which enjoys tattling on government authorities who've done something wrong). The three main branches are able to keep each other in check by executive vetos, legislative impeachments and authorizations of law, and judicial declarations of unconstitutionality and other rulings.

An American said...

That being said, the current economic crisis is not Singapore's fault, it's America's fault. (It was housing speculation run rampant in the USA that led to a storm of foreclosures, which led to bank failures and near-failures, which led to banks clamping down on credit, which led to the economic troubles. Since America is a big economy, it dragged the rest of the world with it.)

Anonymous said...

Government should not be run like a corporation and hence should not by remunerated similarly. If this models is adopted we should have casulty from the government side at this present situation, regardless of global meltdown. Government is to serve our citizens.