Saturday, July 16, 2005

NKF Saga II : The Prisoner of Success

I have written the following article in Sammyboy.

I think people are reacting inproportionately to the NKF Saga without knowing that their emotions have been fanned by the press media in a certain way to target at TT Durai. Look at the press coverage once Durai and the board resigned, damage control all fall in line.

In some instances, people are more angry about Mrs. Goh's peanut remark which make them quit contributing, but the media deliberately play this down while continue targeting Durai. It is very obvious that the aim is to force Durai out of NKF.

No "rational" deliberation was done on Durai's past contributions, as they have done extensively on PAP's, to justify that $600K pay as compared to million dollar ministers' salary.

Nothing was mentioned about the root problem of the whole saga, Moral Hazard; instead, full force was concentrated on one individual's ill doing.

There is something missing here. The NKF saga is a perfect educational material for Singaporeans to learn more about the folly of an unchecked government that will always subject to the temptations of Moral Hazard. This is an important lesson for everyone of us to learn about why we need good system that protect whistle blowers and how to provide good checks and balances to a government.

So, I am very cynical with the mass media in Singapore which the gullible ones will just go and praise them for uncovering the dirt in NKF. They will still report what they want you to see and manipulate your views in every ways they could.

Goh Meng Seng

Many people only see the bad side of TT Durai basically due to the deliberate press reporting. Forumers have always been talking about the Press and the mass media here as 147th position but ironically, they jump the gun when the issue of TT Durai surface.

How many people here have volunteered their service to charitable organizations before? How many of us have the perserverance to serve a charitable organization for 37 years, in whatever capacity? If you really take this into perspective, you will understand why the staff of NKF is so supportive of Durai even when he made the blunder.

It is very unfortunate that Durai has fallen prey to his own success. But look at this way, he is just a mirror of PAP success. From the beginning, NKF started off with only a small office. There isn't anything call half a million pay. Very thrifty in spending and such. This is just like the old guard of PAP running Singapore. They didn't ask for million dollar pay. Dr. Goh KS and other ministers are always on the guard, looking for opportunity to save money for Singapore.

But when prosperity sets in, reserves started climbing, PAP ministers use exactly the same reasoning that for any organization that manage so much funds, its executives must be highly paid. Not many Singaporeans (well, forumers here exception) find big fault with that, but people find fault with Durai, why? At the very least, Durai has spent 37 years of service in NKF, how many years our ministers have spent? Some are just helicopter into the rank!

As for the moral hazard Durai and NKF committed, it is also happening in PAP govt! Have people forgotten the seven wonders of Singapore?

It is very intriguing to find that Singaporeans could react in such a violent way to this NKF saga but they don't seem to see the flaws in the monopoly of power by PAP. Maybe it is just letting up of a pent up emotional force that created this big hoohaa. There will always be excuses given here and there by the PAP apologists, but haven't people consider the same for NKF? NKF may never be the same again without Durai?

I am only trying to play the devil's advocate here. I must declare that I do not know nor support Durai in the latest saga but I do see his pass merits. To a certain extend, I believe the masses' emotions have been fanned up by the press.

This is also a big alarming lesson to PAP actually. It demonstrates that if there is any findings of PAP govt's wrong doing (technically illegal, morally or otherwise) being exposed and fanned up, PAP govt will face the same fate of Durai and NKF board.

But from another perspective, it is important for us to understand that no matter how good a man initially was, with the combination of overwhelming success, concetration of power and the buildup of arrogance replacing the initial humility (always talking about suing people), he will bound to be morally corrupted by the many temptations that come with such combinations. The threat of moral hazard will always be there. Thus we need to provide a system that ensure effective checks and balances to be in place, protection of whistle blowers that acted in public interests, in the form of freedom of expression.

It is interesting to note that many people are gunning at Durai (maybe someone is right, the agents are here to fan the emotions against Durai) but they could not see the root problem and how it is relevant to any organizations that utilize public funds. And also, how freedom of expression is so important to maintain good governance.

Leave TT Durai alone as I think he has squandered off all the goodwill he has built up for the past three decades. The biggest enemy is his own success. Instead we should concentrate on how to build a system that ensure such things happening in NKF don't happen in a bigger scale, especially in our govt.

Goh Meng Seng


Thrasymachus said...

There are both "truth" and "false" in your articles. and I could only agree to a certain extent.

Many people think that Ministers' pay is not justified. But if you look at all the new Ministers to join politics in last elections, all of them took a massive pay cut from their previous jobs.

Today, we might fight and win the argument over the Ministers' high pay, but what is the end results? Ministers having a lower pay, might make less top people interested in the job, more vunerable for corruption, become a country like Phillippines?

I think all young activists should be wary of not plucking the "forbidden fruit" just because it is forbidden (even though it was not) and we should be far sighted in our judgements and impact of our decisions.

Goh Meng Seng said...

Dear Thrasymachus,

Then by your logic, USA, Britain and such big countries must have more pay for their politicians? They made even big decisions than our politicians, managing an economy that is dunno how many times the size of ours! Ironically, they don't evaluate their salaries with such skewed logic as we do.

This is a matter of public service, not calculative to how much "pay cut" the ministers are suffering. If they really mind about such sacrifices, then politics and public service is not a place for them to be.

Goh Meng Seng

Thrasymachus said...

haha....good point GMS, maybe that is why Dick Cheney and GWB resort to using Hailliburton's oil money for their addition salary....

Even until now Dick Cheney is still receiving US$1 million every year!

But I agree with you, public service is for the public...but will there ever be a way of paying low and yet demand zero corruption and the best talents? Pragmatist would say no....

arixion said...

Excessive pragmatism might kill the nation.