Friday, January 13, 2012

Transparent Pay System, My Foot

"Singapore practises a transparent system where salaries are fully accounted for through a clean wage set at a competitive level with no hidden perks and privileges," so reads para 15 of the report of the Committee to Review Ministerial Salaries (CRMS). If you have not read the report in detail, you would have missed out on some of the "hidden perks and privileges".

Many an apologetic has waxed lyrical about the great financial sacrifice made by those who signed up for political office, the most nauseating version being Grace Fu's not so subtle threat about "tilting the balance." But unknown to most of us, and the whole wide world watching the money game in play, the PM seems to have an ace up his sleeve that runs counter current to all the talk about the pain of pay cuts. This get-out-of-jail free card (as if ministerhood was indentured servitude) would make sure the appointee can have his cake and eat it too. Specifically, the PM is empowered to offer a higher salary outside the official Ministerial range, and damn be whatever numbers Gerard Ee's committee members come up with.

The name that comes to mind immediately is Ng Eng Hen, who once famously said, “You’re getting a bargain for the ministers you get… I worked half as much and earn(ed) five times more when I was in the private sector.” (Channelnewsasia, 9 September 2003).

Interestingly, an unpublished paper presented to the American Accounting Association in August by Richard Cazier and John Mcinnis discovered that the premium pay expected of external hires is negatively correlated with their actual performance. This may be because superstars have an inflated opinion of their own capabilities. They assume all the credit for the success of their previous firm, when in fact the contribution of others were involved. ("The Trouble With Superheroes", Schumpeter, The Economist, October 1st 2011)

Now unless Gerard Ee is emboldened to lie in black and white, we have his word, Scout's honour, that the hitherto lesser known make-up pay system, which was introduced in Parliament in 1989, has not been used thus far. But if Ng, or similar super salaried decides to bitch like Grace Fu, he could easily get his 5 times ministerial salary in a jiffy, complete with creative contrivances of miscellaneous allowances and all.

The CRMS has chosen to retain this joker card, albeit the recommended provision is good for one term only, compared to the prescribed two terms. The big $64,000 question is why this loop hole is not plugged?


  1. The cabinet has to report the political office holders total remuneration (all in) annually (routine) in parliament seating, irregardless of whatever formula / package.
    Make it public known / press release each year.

  2. Too bad there's a whip in place, otherwise we can see what joker is ready there in the parliaments, there are no better judge of character than money

  3. Actually any government of the world can get rid of corruption 100% with 100% transparency the Singapore way when all it takes is to add a additional clause:

    High officials also can receive additional hidden perk, benefit and allowance subject to no maximum limit. Due to national interest, these details are off-limit to the public, and will not be accorded into state accounting book as expense.

    With this clause, all countries suddenly rid themselves of corruption ! Ingenious indeed.

  4. With few Singaporeans knowing that Ministers are rewarded with over 30 months of bonuses, what transparency?

    Anyway, transparency not important lah, they can pay themselves crazy, no problem. All they need to do is just deliver the goods to the people. Who cares how much they get!


    1. Don't exaggerated lah, otherwise they will say the cyber critics are full of bull. That 34.5 months include the 13 months of basic pay lah. But 20 over months of bonuses is still hell of a lot.

    2. Someone sent me this blog and I am reading it with interest. My son who is in an elite boarding school in Germany told me that they were discussing about how much Prime Ministers in different countries earn and they all laugh when they came to know how much the Singapore PM earns per year as the amount is simply too astronomical in comparison to what other Prime Ministers are earning. On being told that the high wages for the other Ministers are to avoid corruption, they thought that it would only work in communist countries. So even students from well-to do families do not approve of government officials earning heaps while the rest of the country toil hard to earn a decent income to feed the families...this is from the minds of young people from different countries thinking apart....

      Plainly 'Hegemony in Act' or ' Hegemonie in Akt' (auf Deutsch)..Wir haben keine Schadenfreunde..

  5. Ya, the PAP government is the most accountable and transparent government in this world! The only problem is do you believe? Did Ee and the rest of CRMS understand English or not? Or, have they a different meanings of transparency?

  6. Whatever happens they will make sure they win.

    That's the trademark of the PAPayas from day one...

  7. Feel sickening seeing all these ongoing debates about ministerial pay when at the ordinary people level, there are lots of people struggling with chronic jobless, pay cuts, high medical costs. In the recent years, I'm seeing steadily cutting down on the essential government spending on education and healthcare but steadily rising in the ministerial pay. Gives me the impression that ministerial pay is crowding out all those essential spending on public services.

    I suggest following the practices of countries in US, Taiwan, Korea, China to limit the government term to 2 terms only and any performance bonus salary to be given out at least 3-4 years after the Minister takes on his/her post. This is because good policies usually take a long term to show its effect on the country. By rewarding this bonus performance later, this will prevent short termism or those behavior normally referred to as kicking the can down the road, in other words, postponing coming out with policies to avoid short term pain even though this will benefit the country in the long term.

    If we limit the government term to 2 terms, there should not be such a big issue over pay, since the PM and his cabinet will be 'serving National Service' for 2 terms only and after that they can return to private sector to regain their high paid. Not much sacrifice, only short term.

    What Do You Think About My Suggestion?

  8. When it comes to our Ministers' pay, none of the US/UK/Japan/Europe systems is good enough for our PAP Ministers.

    But when queried why a Minister cum MP are paid 2 salaries, Oh we follow the Westminster system.

    What kind of fucked up double standards is that, Mr. Prime Minister ?

  9. I agree with many people that our ministers are overpaid, and perhaps the PAP is even tapping from the wrong pool of people for these appointments.

    They should just remove the clause lah. So stupid of them to keep this backdoor. They not gonna use it anyway, why leave it in and let people criticise them? Damn dumb...

    1. "They should just remove the clause lah. So stupid of them to keep this backdoor. They not gonna use it anyway, why leave it in and let people criticise them? Damn dumb..."

      YOu must be kidding. These ambiguous clauses are their thumb card. They use it at the right time as it suits them. Our clowns are famous for keeping ambiguous clauses so that they can protect themselve left and right, up and down.

      They have everything sort out to protect them, so if you say that the whole cabinet are corrupted, aha, a law clause is there to protect them.

  10. 伪民主封建皇朝刑加缚政权那有透明度。

  11. Gerard Ee, Gerard Ee.
    Is this how you want to be remembered by the generations to come?

  12. Satire
    MENSA reports that the IQ of Singapore politicians have increased by 10%.
    After PAP lost the Aljunied GRC.

  13. Normally I don't like to copycat?
    But this is a good one.

    Gerard Ee, Gerard Ee.
    Is this how you want to be remembered by the generations to come?

  14. The logic of politicians’ remuneration:

    You propose a formula for your own salary and present the proposal to the parliament for approval. You and your cronies have total control of the parliament. You know your proposal is definitely passed without meaningful debate.

    You propose salary formula for you and your cronies to base on a group of top earners who are mostly from GLCs and your cronies' companies. You also know that your controlled parliament will pass your proposed formula. Next thing you do is to get GLCs and your cronies' companies to pay the chief very very well. As such, your and your cronies' salary will be increased accordingly.

    After the people object to your proposal, you appoint one of your cronies to review the proposal and he recommend a revised proposal that you and your cronies (not the people) are happy about it. Then you present the revised proposal to the parliament again for approval. You know that all your cronies in the parliament will support the revised proposal because the revised proposal is for their own good. The parliament is still dominant by your cronies and the revised proposal will be approved without any question. 

    After the revised salary proposal is done, one of your cronies can say she suffer pay cut by joining politics. She claimed she could earn much more in 'private' sector. Look at what 'private' sector she has worked before joining politics. She has worked for few GLCs before invited to join politics. Are GLCs really 'private' sector? If she is right, those GLCs must have paid her very very high salary. This proves that if you have raised the GLCs chief salary this will actually effect higher salary for you and your cronies. 

    By controlling the corruption at lower levels, foreigners who do not know the details of this system will believe that a pro-business governance system is free of corruption. Is the system really corruption-free?

    Based on the logic, it proves that the current system is very very clever to ‘legalize’ corruption at the highest level. If not, what is it?

    You may look at the logics of GRC, NCMP and NMP. It is not difficult to understand the ultimate motive behind a fake democratic ‘feudal dynasty’ politics in action in a modern world.

    1. And I totally agree! We simply cannot vote such money faces come the next election.

  15. High pay is used to attract people who earn big money. Is earning big buck the primary responsibility of ministers? If PAP ministers and cronies think they deserve million dollars paycheck, please don't join politics, be a real businessmen and by the way, don't squat in GLCs and NTUC.

    I don't like 'discounted' ministers and I won't miss their service. I believe there are still enough talents in Singapore who are willing to step forward to answer the call of duty than what PAP government would like to acknowledge.

    As the MSMs try their utmost to brainwash the nation that the revised ministerial pay package is fair, we should not forget ministers are not businessmen, bankers or investors, they don't run money-making businesses (even though we know LTA and SLA are very profitable). The argument that ministers make decision that is worth billion of dollars is a lame excuse to justify their out-of-this-world pay. Which first world government doesn't make decision that is worth billion of dollars? Other government won't dare to pay themselves millions because that is politically unacceptable. Let's just say, the ministerial pay can only be fair when PAP's winning vote is further reduced to 50%.

    Perhaps a simple question should be asked in parliament: How many ministers actually earn more than their previous jobs. I am quite sure, compared to the number of ministers who took pay cut, an overwhelming number actually have a huge pay increase after becoming minister. What 'discount' and 'sacrifice' are we then talking about? Becoming a minister is in fact a promotion for many and a career path for those in the elite admin service.

    Ridiculous pay just makes the government looks ridiculous.

  16. High pay or low pay is beside the point. The point is as people has entrusted their future to the ministers, they should take care of the people by implementing
    policy to serve people not suck people's blood !!

    For goodness sake, just do a proper job ! Wonder how these people can have peaceful sleep at night. Where art thou conscience ?