Of salaries, value and hypocrisy

Posted: January 15, 2012 in Government, Policy
Tags: , , ,

The issue of political remuneration is one of the latest hot potatoes to drop into the hands of the ruling People’s Action Party, and for all the efforts of the PAP to cool this potato, it appears that the potato has an internal combustion engine that keeps on spewing heat to keep the potato hot.

The top leaders of the PAP are most probably scratching their heads and wondering why, despite deep cuts to salaries of political appointees, Singaporeans are generally still not satisfied. The answer is relatively simple: the issue is not about the absolute dollars and cents, but about the perceived value the dollars and cents generate.

There is no problem paying a premium if the perceived value is greater than the premium paid, which explains why people are willing to pay extra for branded products. The astronomical salaries of political appointees didn’t attract so much firestorm until Lee Hsien Loong took over the reins of the PAP, so there is definitely some relationship between the quality of Lee’s leadership team and the amount of money they are getting.

Of course, alternative media such as The Online Citizen has helped fueled the debate, which might have been considered not suitable for public discussion and then quickly swept under the carpet in earlier years by the PAP government’s strong control of the traditional media, a point also noted by Cherian George. However, if the current PAP leadership team has indeed been perceived to have done a good job in governance by Singaporeans, there is no debate to be fueled.

The PAP can continue to trim and prune political salaries, but it will not placate many Singaporeans. Even if the current ministers volunteer to work for free, there will be a substantial number of Singaporeans baying for blood because there is no point in having something for free if it’s perceived as useless and being a deadweight.

Whether political ministers are paid $1 or $10 million a year doesn’t really matter; what matters is whether they are delivering the goods, and the PAP certainly has to do more to convince Singaporeans of its value. Cutting current salaries is not the solution.

That being said, the review of ministerial salaries did get one thing right, and that is the removal of the pension scheme for political appointees. For far too long has Singaporeans been told to accept the supposedly superior Central Provident Fund system while political appointees continued on the pension scheme. If the pension scheme was inferior, why did political appointees, with their high salaries, not switch to the CPF system for such a long time?

At least the hypocrisy of political appointees being on the pension system for retirement has been corrected.

  1. Nominee Investor says:

    I get sick everytime I remember the comment that they did not enrich themselves. Any idiot will know that being the highest paid politican in the world is legally “enriching yourself” under the pretence of not being corrupted.

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