atans1

When being a minister turns from a calling into a job for life

In Political governance, Public Administration on 24/08/2018 at 10:55 am

Have to agree with Calvin (again)

After posting PM talked cock I came across a FB post by Calvin Cheng on the PAP’s BS reasoning on ministerial salaries. As I see it he’s saying that that being a minister has turned turned from a calling into a cushy job for life.

Calvin Cheng
August 16 at 6:43 PM ·

I have argued consistently that the leaders of a country should be well-paid and Singapore gets it right, albeit for different reasons that the Government gives.

However, I think that the debate on Ministerial salaries will never end as long as outdated justifications keep getting trotted out.

Firstly, paying high salaries to prevent corruption may have been a good reason 20 to 30 years ago when we were a developing country. But if after 53 years of nation building and education , and as a developed nation, if our leaders have to be paid well in order for them not to be corrupt, it is bloody tragic. The leaders of other developed countries are paid less than Singapore leaders but are not any less incorruptible.

Secondly, paying high to attract talent from the private sector and/or prevent government talent from leaving is also highly doubtful. There is a Chinese saying 隔行如隔山. A different profession is like a different mountain.

It means that each profession takes time to master, and a superstar highly paid lawyer may not make a superstar government minister. And vice versa – a superstar career technocrat may not succeed in the private sector. In fact, some of the best paid professionals on Shenton Way are traders who make millions of dollars, but I am pretty sure their skills are not transferable to governance. Also, a good trader is paid more than a bad trader, a good lawyer is paid more than a bad lawyer, but that doesn’t mean that the trader is mediocre compared to the lawyer – some professions are just paid more than others.

Which brings me to why I think leaders should be paid well.

I think that Governance is an expertise in itself and I am of the school of thought that technocrats should run a country.

I do not subscribe to the whole ‘servant’ and ‘sacrifice’ rhetoric – these are things leaders all over the world say to be popular. After the end of absolute monarchies as a system of government, who wants to be lorded over by arrogant leaders? So the whole ‘humility’ “I am your servant” rhetoric is served by elected leaders all over.

In truth, I don’t need to be served. I don’t need leaders to make a ‘sacrifice’. Just run the country well – make sure that people have jobs, healthcare, education, good infrastructure and are happy. It is the most important job in the every country and thus should be the most highly paid. But in a democracy, the people reserve the right to sack them every few years, and it should also be the most insecure job. The people must be brave enough to vote a Minister out if he is not doing his job every 5 years.

Finally, what about other developed countries? They seem to be doing well even though their leaders are paid much less.

In other rich, developed countries, elected leaders are either 1) already rich people going for power or 2) career politicians. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but in general I think in developed democracies, power is diffused and things work in spite of the government instead of because of it.

I would rather we pay more, make sure we elect the best technocrats to run the country instead of hoping for a benign rich person, or a capable career hack.

But stop saying that it is to prevent corruption, or to attract high-paying professionals from the private sector, or prevent ministers from leaving for the private sector.

The people know it is BS and the more you say it, the more the issue of high ministerial pay will never go away.

Just be upfront: it is the most important job in the country, let’s pay them very well, but every 5 years if they don’t perform well, sack them.

  1. He is really talking alot of sense nowadays though I still disagree that being a minister is a job and not calling… But this one takes the cake

    “To be honest, I don’t think this Government has the moral authority to tell people to be frugal and spend within their means. Unlike LKY.

    They are too young, and also too wealthy (LKY was famously frugal and walked the talk).

    If Ah Gong or Father tells you to use WiFi not 4G and save money, you probably will nod your head and say ok even if u not happy.

    If your rich brother tells you the same thing, you will probably tell him to go fly a kite.

    Which is what’s happening.”

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