Friday, May 27, 2011

Lessons From The Private Sector

Associate Professor Mak Yuen Teen of NUS Business School lends imprimatur to the oft repeated arguments about ministerial salaries. Firstly, he teaches executive and director pay to an executive MBA class. Secondly, he has seen his own peers earning more in the private sector, but without his tenure which provides better job security. Our Men-In-White have best of both worlds, drawing obscene salaries while protected by the safe harbour of gerrymandering and the GRC scam.

It all sounds too much like common sense, when Mak says that if you pay very well, you also risk attracting the wrong people who are motivated purely by money. One example of such motivation is best illustrated by what Dr Lim Wee Kiak, PAP MP for Nee Soon GRC, told Lianhe Wanbao: “If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communication and Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discuss policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister’s ideas and proposals, hence a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity.” It sounds better in the original Chinese:


Mak adds that people who are attracted to politics because of the money (or power) might still want to use their positions for their own benefit because for some, it is never enough. Considering that Lim Wee Kiat is one of the newbies who sneaked into parliament via the GRC route, one only hopes that his monetary concept of dignity is not too virulent among the PAP ranks. But then again, didn't the SAF army generals once tried to justify being driven around in Mercedes cars "so that the men will look up to them?"

The professor says he is not concerned about high pay, and is outraged only by someone who makes money in an illegal or unethical manner, in that the compensation is not related to appropriate measures of performance , or the pay determined is through a contaminated process. By his measures, namely average wage growth, Gini coefficient, average expressway speeds, admission rates of Singaporeans into local universities, percentage of low income families owning HDB flats, our ministers have got away with murder. And if they still persist in the contaminated formulation of drawing private sector pay, to paraphrase the good professor, they risk receiving an unexpected performance appraisal from the electorate again. George Yeo was just the first to face the music.


  1. That is why Gerard Ee is in the salary review committee and not Mak Yuen Teen. The PM is not going to shoot himself in the foot and start a revolt in the cabinet with a massive long overdue salary cut. Remember these people are used to astronomically high pay with no accountability. Change is difficult. Going cold turkey in this case may be worse than a high core heroin addict missing is regular fix. My take is at the end of the day, there will just be a cosmetic patronising cut to insult the intelligence of the voters.

  2. LKY was one of those who defended fiercely for the Ministers' pay rise to heavenly levels and as one of the Ministers, also happens to be one of the beneficiaries. Are we going to expect the son to turn the tables upside down ?

    Or will the review committee be capable of doing a proper impartial job without any fear or favour ? With hindsight, is it to late to seek the advice of the SMC as they obviously have the experience to advise on private sector salaries especially surgeons ?

  3. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.
    Can sissy Loong rise to the occasion ?

    The answer to solving the obscene salary lies with sissy Loong himself!
    Firstly, declare he will take only an MP's salary for the next 5 years, afterwhich convince his cabinet to accept at least 75% cut. Those who cannot accept, should be given the boot like MahBT, WongKS, Raymond. Ask himself, which Minister or MP is truly indispensable?

    In doing the above, sissy Loong will know for sure who are really supporting him, who are in it for the money. A strong leader has no qualms making tough choices, even appointing those from alternative parties to get the job done.

    Compare the sacrifices made by Sylvia, LowTK, Chiam, ChenSM, etc,...sissy Loong ought to know by now, LimWeeKiak is a dud MP who talks and thinks through his ass, what does he understand about dignity?

    *joining the PAP in itself can be said to be losing one's dignity*

  4. Mind you. The outcome is predictable. It will just be cosmetic cut after all the wayang. Simple reason is that any drastic cut to reasonable level or comparable to those of first world leaders pay will mean LKY has done very wrong on his idea of having high salary to counter corruption. Do you think LHL will shoot his father's foot? Do not forget that if LHL does do it, it means PAP has illegally and wrongfully enriched themselves with public money. So, LHL is in a very difficult position now. If he is wise, he should cut it drastically to bring back the heart of the people. This will allow him to leave a good name in history. Or else, he will likely be ousted in GE2016 and also leave a bad name for himself.

  5. To add salt to the wound, after the cosmetic cut if it ever comes to that, all these overpaid parasites would be given multiple direcrorships from the stable of GLC's which is not subject to public scrutiny. There is more than one way to skin a cat. If money is what they are after, they will be able to find a way. Afterall, we have always accepted the excuse there is no need to have transparency in our government in the name of national interest. The MIW will always behave honestly. Some famous last words.