For someone appointed as Minister of State of Education, Lawrence Wong sure wasn't paying attention in class during the three days of ministerial salary debate. Instead of taking cognizance of lessons learnt in the bruising battle of words, he is droning on like Wong Kan Seng (no relation) over the Gomez-CCTV episode of 2006.
Yes, the Workers' Party did propose in 2006 that ministerial salaries be benchmarked 100 times the salary of the bottom 20 percent. But they also know that even if WP pointed out that white is indeed white, the PAP will pass a law to decree white is black. Hence during GE 2011, WP proposed an alternative benchmark pitted against the political office of developed countries. Now Wong (Lawrence, not Kan Seng) is quibbling over the Superscale MX9 peg.
WP chose MX9 because it is the entry-level of the Superscale grade. Who's to know how this level is pegged to the private sector salaries? There are so many opaque formulas in play in the system - electrical tariff, HDB pricing, COE quota, health care subsidy, etc - that it's probably easier to find out the secret recipe of the XO Sauce that the keechiu general is yapping about. Case in point, PM Lee revealed that only one minister is currently at the higher MR3 grade, but stopped short at naming the minister. What's there to hide? Is he afraid the public will be outraged at that minister's financial bonanza, or supreme sacrifice?
Wong should heed the words of a real teaching professional, NUS law professor Walter Woon, who said that the debate over minister's pay has become a proxy for dissatisfaction with the divide between the top earners and the vast majority of Singaporeans:
"No amount of argument with facts and figures will change that."
Wong should heed the lesson that in attempting to win the battle, he will lose the war. He may continue to rant like a rabid dog, but he's still taking a hair-cut with his take home pay. And we have the WP, and the electorate of Singapore, to thank for that. Let's hope he won't take it out on the kids by skimping on the angpows.