“When I made the decision to join politics in 2006, pay was not a key factor. Loss of privacy, public scrutiny on myself and my family and loss of personal time were. The disruption to my career was also an important consideration. I had some ground to believe that my family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though I experienced a drop in my income. So it is with this recent pay cut. If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one [sic] considering political office.” (Grace Fu)
These days, the PAP is a much-maligned lot. Netizens twisted Seng Han Thong’s totally innocuous remarks and claimed that he was, in effect, making a racially discriminatory remark when he was merely espousing bad spoken English and practising what he preached. Now, Grace Fu is accused of expecting high ministerial salaries when she is telling us that the pay does not matter much to her (still). Our ministers must be sorely missing the good old days when all it takes was a simple defamation suit to preserve their reputations while possibly supplementing their incomes, which must have been compromised by their altruistic decision to serve the people by joining the most powerful political party in the semi-democratic world.
We must therefore be fair to Fu. She does say that “pay was not a key factor” influencing her decision to join politics. The poor woman is trying so hard to show us that she is not materialistic, but still ends up accused of being so. To be sure, she must have taken the pay into consideration, but she is telling us the pay did not discourage her from joining politics. While the pay was not a key factor to her, it was nonetheless one of the potential push factors, together with a supposed loss of privacy and personal time. This must be why she is misunderstood. Crass Singaporean mortals, who would be encouraged by a million-dollar annual pay package, we will never be able to empathize with Fu who was somewhat discouraged by it. She was only able to make the decision to join politics and entertain Singaporeans on Facebook because she had “some ground” (i.e. not much) to think that her standard of living could be more or less sustained. We have a talented politician like her only because the pay offered did not affect her standard of living. Because of our inability to imagine the standard of living that would be compromised by a million-dollar salary, it is easy for us to think that she is materialistic. It is our fault. She is not materialistic. She is not demanding a higher pay. It is just that her standard of living is so inconceivably high that she may face difficulties making ends meet if she were to be paid the average salary of a minister in the developed world.
Perhaps Singapore should implement a social assistance program to offer financial aid to struggling ministers.
Fu is also not speaking for herself when she says that”[i]f the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one [sic] considering political office.” She is just saying that if the pay gets any lower, it may discourage any person who is thinking of joining politics from doing so. We must first make the important distinction between “any person considering political office” and “any person out there.” Fu’s assumption is probably beyond the grasp of lower life forms, but it is quite simple: the people who are suitable for political office and hence are considering it are the people who earn significantly more than what a minister earns. As such, if the pay gets any lower, their quality of life can be adversely affected if they decide to join politics. It is unreasonable for us to expect anyone to become a beggar just to serve the people. On the other hand, those who actually earn significantly less than what a minister earns are and do not find it difficult to accept the pathetic ministerial pay package are not in a position to consider joining politics because their low pay reflects their lack of talent and competence. Remember, Singapore is a meritocratic society and the highest earners are the most talented people. If we have less talented people governing Singapore, Orchard Road will flood, the trains will stop moving and there will be insufficient foreign talents in Singapore. In other words, Singapore will be destroyed. Maybe the doomsday prophets were right about 2012 after all. Fu was saying what she said out of her deep concern for Singapore. We cannot be ungrateful and continue to malign her. Like Seng Han Thong who turned out to be empathizing with those who could not speak English well, Fu is actually expressing her empathy for people who have financial problems.
Allow Molly to cheer Fu on for the patriotic efforts. Go, Grace! Go!