Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How Much Can You Really Eat?

When the bean counters of the Norwegian company who bought over our Singapore operation came to visit, one of them told us that the salary structure at head office was pretty egalitarian. The general manager is paid only 5 times as much as the lowly receptionist. He must have read about the juicy emoluments of our ministers.

In the US, the average income of the wealthiest 10 percent of the population is 15.9 times that of the poorest 10 percent. By contrast, in Japan the difference is only 4.5 times - one of the lowest ratios in the world, according to Keiko Hirata and Mark Warschauer in their book "Japan, The Paradox of Harmony". There is much less conspicuous consumption among corporate tycoons in Japan than in the US, and business leaders are often embarrassed to be paid too much. Hmm, maybe the disgraceful minister in the prime minister's office should read the book.

Going against the vein, CEO Dan Price of Seattle payment processing firm Gravity Payments took a 90% pay cut so he could give his employees a raise after coming across a study about happiness. The happiness research came from a Angus Deaton and Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman. They found that emotional well-being — defined as “the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience, the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant” — rises with income, but only to a point. And that point turns out to be about US$75,000 a year. David Marshall, who served as Singapore's first Chief Minister from 1955 to 1956, has a simpler explanation - how much can you really eat?

Try explaining that to the mercenaries who said that only a million dollars can give a politician confidence to clink champagne glasses with a businessman. The same horrible people who say the Gini coefficient does not matter. Price is not the only one willing to step forward to address the disparity between the soaring pay of top dogs and that of their lowly employees, he's heard from almost 100 other CEOs via email and text who say they support his initiative. To quote Chinese philosopher Laozi, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (千里之行,始於足下).


  1. One other reason those horrible people always throw out to justify their obscenely high salaries is that huge pay packets will make people less interested in corruption. Which is a hoot, of course, given that their job description is "public servant" - a position for which non-corruption should be a basic requirement, not some target to aim for as a bloody KPI.

    This makes me recall that blood-boiling comment from one high profile serial failure, to the effect of, "I could have been better remunerated and less harshly judged in the private sector". Well thanks for letting us know, ma'am, but if public service and its related demands wasn't your cup of tea, then whytf did you choose to join in the first place?!

  2. Warren Buffett once responded to those billionaires who said they can't donate to his Giving pledge . "I’m going to write a book on how to live on 500 million dollars.” Apparently they don't know how to.

    I suggest those retired or unelected millionaire Ministers start contemplating on writing those books instead of more 50-shades of white stories and narratives that is only one-sided. There would be more demand from the public.

    1. Might the PM be qualified to write one "Rich Dad, Poor kid" ?

  3. The emperors in China never had to stand for elections. They justified their heavenly son status by a combination of bribery, bestowing on their mandarins and generals wealth and privileges, and force using their control of the legal system. Same mandarins and generals return the favour with their support, helping the emperor usurp and tax the masses more and more. See, if there was an honest mandarin, the emperors won't get away with murder. The cunning old fox promoted only those who checked all the correct boxes, the outspoken ones were culled, it had taken just 11 short years, the system today is the exact opposite of what it was.

  4. Our ministers will have nothing to do with a thoroughly corrupt Dan Price. Price's dignity must have plummeted to 10% when he gives 90% of his pay to his lower paid employees.

  5. 5 plates of char kway teow with 2 eggs.

  6. Tattler, maybe you should get your new HQ to send you & your family to work in Norway, and see how you can migrate there.

    Good life for your kids if you can get PR/citizenship for your family. In such countries, salaries for so-called low-level positions are quite high. Their attitude is not so much high-level or low-level, but instead whether the job is essential. E.g. there *must* be someone to be receptionist; there *must* be someone to clear the garbage or clean the toilets. And so they pay these workers respectable salaries becoz they do essential duties.

    With this kind of attitudes, these counties (especially Scandinavian countries) encourage kids & young adults to pursue their passion & interests, instead of focusing on getting highest grades so can get into "in-demand" courses like law or medicine to earn big bucks.

    Many Sinkies think the above is a lazy society but end up citizens in Scandinavian countries all have high standards of living, good salaries, and they can still produce Nobel Prize winners. While S'pore still have destitutes, multi-generational poverty, vicious life-cycle, and majority of citizens unable to retire unless children support them. Their children also caught in the same vicious cycle. And up till now no Nobel prize winners even though PAP keep on saying our education is the best in the world.