Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reasons Against Million Dollar Pay for Ministers & Top Civil Servants

PAP has argued that we need to pay "MARKET RATE" in order to "attract" the TOP TALENTS to serve in the civil service and public service as Ministers. They have even argued that without such a high pay (as high as multi-milllion dollar annual salary package), we may end up with corrupt politicians like those in other places around the world. This is the MOST SELF SERVING as well as SELF DEGRADING argument I have ever heard in the political field all over the world.

But I hate to say that even though PAP's reasoning is so full of fundamental flaws in logic, nobody in opposition camp has openly disagreed with such reasoning promoted by PAP. In fact, if we look at the parliamentary debate held on reduction of Ministerial salary, the only argument put forward by both ruling and opposition parties is about how much "discount" they should cut from the existing salary package, instead of debating rigorously on the assumptions and presumptions made in justifying the horrendous high salary package the politicians are giving themselves. Even the formula of calculations provided by Workers Party is basically based on the fundamental assumptions that we need to pay comparable "Market Rates" to our Ministers! That was why they ended up with the embarrassing conclusion that their "alternative" formula is in essence, NOT MUCH DIFFERENT from PAP's existing proposal at all!

I personally feel that we need to challenge the fundamental primary premises that PAP has put up to justify for High Salary package to:

1) Attract Talents to Politics
2) Prevent Corruptions

I would propose the following fundamental premises which will require reasonable BUT not high market rates for Ministers:

1) Avoidance of Crowding out of Talents from Private Sectors
2) Avoidance of Entrenchment of Powers which will breed corrupt practices
3) Natural selection of people with the RIGHT Public Service mindset and keeping out people with wrong intent from Public Service

Giving extraordinary high salary package to Ministers and Top civil servants alike, would create the scenario whereby these individuals may feel "too comfortable" in their positions with only Money as their main motivation. This will create a situation whereby Public Service, instead of grooming talents for the whole country, ended up depriving the private sectors their fair share of talent pool.

The practice of sending "high flyer" army generals and top civil servants to Govrenment Linked Companies have generated unsatisfactory results. Even the practice of recruiting political appointees from the civil service which includes the army, are undesirable. Such practices have cultivated the complacent "Iron Rice Bowl" mindset in these scholars. Furthermore, it will enhance and prolonging the existing GROUP Thinking situation in governance. This will prevent innovative ideas and "out of the box" breakthrough in governance.

It is only desirable to only provide barely sufficient remunerations to Ministers and Top civil servants so that there would not be any incentives for them to stay in such positions for too long. This will provide the necessary upward mobility of other younger talents waiting in line so that there will be dynamic renewal process at any one time.

Ideally, any Minister should not over stay his usefulness and should step down with a maximum of 2 or 3 terms. With a much reduced salary package, I believe they will be more willing to do so. This will not only provide the necessary conducive opportunity for political self renewal but also ensure that political leadership will always be in tune and up to date with the needs and aspirations of each generations of the population. Million dollar salary package will inevitably retain deadwood Ministers which will loose touch with the ground when they are too entrenched in their ivory tower of powers.

Everybody knows Power Corrupts, Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely. But I think we should add that prolonged entrenchment of Power will inevitably corrupt absolutely. Ironically, High Salary package will create the conducive conditions for people to entrench themselves in the positions of power and thus, inevitably corrupted.

PAP's argument that if their Ministers are not paid the highest in the world with horrendous amount of bonuses, they will be corrupted, is absolutely self degrading. Do they mean that if we reduce their salary drastically to $500K tomorrow, their ministers will immediately become corrupt overnight? That is absolutely rubbish. Some of them may consider to retire early, which may not be a bad thing at all because this will make ways for self renewal!

Furthermore, High Salary package may inevitably attract the WRONG kinds of talents who are more concerned about their monetary gains rather than the well being of the citizens. This is the fundamental reason why we are seeing more and more "intelligent but heartless" people in PAP's rank of ministers! Most of the KPIs are set so that they could extra the maximum amount of "surpluses" or money from the citizens, in order to determine how much bonuses they should get in return!

Setting a decent but not exorbitantly high salary package may just filter out the UNDESIRABLE materialistic and "Money Face" elements from such prestige standing of Public Service.

PAP has argued that their slate of ministers are "TALENTS" before they join and become Ministers but I would say that the Public Service as Ministers is the ultimate process that will ADD VALUE to them. When they retire from politics and join the public sectors, their exposures and experiences gained as Ministers will be highly valuable. There is one prime example that the exposures of a Ministerial post has added tremendous value in which a PRIVATE company has made great offer for his service after he retired from politics: George Yeo who has lost Aljunied GRC in 2011 GE.

Most of other former PAP ministers were only deployed to other GLCs after they retired from politics and this hardly explain nor justify why they were given million dollar ministerial salaries in the first place. Only those mediocre ones, even with such added value, will end up with mediocre jobs. 


There is absolutely no necessity to give exorbitantly high salary package to Top Civil servants and Ministers at all. Really smart and talented people with a heart for Public Service would view the great value in serving in these Top posts which will enhance and further their career in private sectors after they retire from these positions of powers. The enormous value of the potential network, influence and experience gained from these positions itself would be attractive enough for real talents to join Public Service in politics.

There is no necessity to provide a multi-million dollar salary package that will keep "talents" entrenched in their posts for too long as this will breed corruption of power. In order to prevent greedy people who are not contended with the much lower pay from corruptions, independent powers separated from executive manipulations from politicians should be installed. i.e. CPIB should be made INDEPENDENT from PMO with appointment of a Commissioner from the pool of retired-judges. Such separation of powers entrusted to CPIB would ensure that proper checks and balances would be installed to clamp down on potential corruptions from politicians.

The only effective safe guard from political corruptions is a system of TRUE INDEPENDENT of CPIB achieved through separation of powers, instead of feeding potential greed with more money.

Thus I would argue that we would only need to provide an adequate salary package for politicians and top civil servants to live a dignified life as leaders of the country but not a life of a million or billionaire. And contrary to PAP's assertion that only million dollar salary could attract the necessary and "Right" talents to serve, I think only a greatly reduced salary package from the current one could weed out those undesirable candidates and provide us the RIGHT persons to serve as the political leaders of the Nation.

Goh Meng Seng

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