Teo Chee Hean: To compare, or not to compare?

After the tilted-balance reasoning put forth by Grace Fu and Chan Chun Sing, DPM Teo Chee Hean now tells us not to compare the salaries of Singapore’s ministers to those of politicians elsewhere in the world. Using the most convoluted yet powerful rhetorical maneuver known to humankind, Teo tells us not to compare Singapore’s ministers to politicians elsewhere—by making the very comparison we are supposed to avoid. Power is the ability to get away with breaking the rules you set.

While we have already understood from Chan that politicians elsewhere in the world are not as well paid because those $1.50 chye tow kueys are not as capable, Teo now enlightens us on how politicians in the rest of the world are not even as transparent as the PAP because only the PAP government adopts a “clean wage” policy. In other words, not only are all other governments less competent than the PAP government, they are also less clean and transparent. This sounds like an open invitation to declare war, so Singaporeans must thank God if its ministers are not taken seriously by their international counterparts.

Gone are the days when the PAP could simply tell us to stop comparing because the American President could earn lots of money after his one or two terms by writing books and giving talks. After all, that is just the American President and everyone knows that PAP ministers’ salaries are higher than any political office holder’s in the world. Everyone also knows that PAP ministers could always write books too. On top of that, they could even become Singapore’s President and continue earning impressive salaries. After that, they could write more books, get a post-retirement job in the Institute of Policy Studies and give talks if they so wish. The PAP must have gone through million-dollar brainstorming sessions to come up with the latest rhetoric. It’s amazing that the “clean wage” policy has always been in place and our humble, low-profile ministers have never cared to talk about it all these years when people have been maligning them of rewarding themselves with ridiculously high salaries.

The logic now goes that Singapore has a clean wage policy and Singaporeans know exactly what they earn; in contrast, politicians overseas have hidden perks and benefits that people, presumably, do not know about. How interesting! If these perks are hidden elsewhere in the world, how does Teo know about them? Perhaps Julian Assange sent him some secrets.

Singapore’s clean wage policy is so credible that people do not even bother to find out about non-hidden stuff like make-up pay for ministers. This has got to be proof that Singapore has a system that the rest of the world should follow. There is no easier path leading to world peace than politics made undemocratic and lucrative. Teo’s painstaking efforts in explaining Singapore’s system to us, however, is likely to fall on the deaf ears of the vicious Internet. I can anticipate deranged netizens asking him if Singapore’s ministers still earn more after taking into consideration all the secret benefits in other countries and the pensions, make-up pay, and bonuses in Singapore. Additionally, I’m sure people are going to propose that the PAP can draw a lower salary and get similar perks and benefits without compromising transparency. People fail to realize that transparency justifies any salary. Even if each minister were to draw a salary of $50 million per year and the clean wage system is adopted, the salary has got to be justified.

Of course, Teo is not insensitive to the potential protests that could arise from his reasoning. He tells us also that we should not benchmark our ministers’ salaries to those of political leaders elsewhere. The reasoning, once again, is impeccable. Because Singapore is very different from the rest of the world, we cannot expect Singapore’s ministers to draw the same sort of salaries as their counterparts in the rest of the world. This totally explains why Obama’s salary does not have to be pegged to Bill Gates’ because of the American situation, but our ministers have to have their salaries pegged to the top earners’ in Singapore. What a gloriously repackaged version of the old “Singapore is unique” reasoning!

Yes, when all else fails, tell people that Singapore is different. Because Singapore is unique, we cannot have democracy or rights. Because Singapore is unique, we need more foreign talents than the island can hold, regardless of whether they are talented or not. Because Singapore is unique, we need to conscript all males and turn them into monkeys by paying them peanuts. Because Singapore is unique, the PAP must rule forever (or else . . .).

A move originally meant to win over the people who are disgruntled about ministers’ salaries becomes the seed of greater discontent because this is Singapore.

In Appreciation of Chan Chun Sing

Singaporeans have Chan Chun Sing, who courageously does a Grace Fu for our benefit, to thank for comments that reveal more about Singapore politics than any other politician has of late.

Firstly, he tells us about what he thinks of his PAP colleagues: “I don’t think anyone of them comes here for the money. They come here to provide a better life for the next generation… One of the reasons why I stepped forward was because I know I’m [sic] joining a team of people that are not here [sic] for the money.”

Maybe one ought to retort in a language which Chan would understand: You think, you don’t think, who confirm?

The PAP’s purported desire to “provide a better life for the next generation” perhaps explains why the party always seems to neglect the current generation. (It pays to remember that there’s always a current generation.)

While one could actually put up with the paternalism involved in the desire to “provide” a better life for people if it is actually done, I wonder how Chan’s colleagues are going to do it. Is it by paying for my children’s education out of his reduced-but-incredibly-high salary?

Chan also tells us: “Money should not be the one (factor) to attract them in [sic]. On the other hand, money should also not be the bugbear to deter them.”

In Fulish words: if the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for anyone considering political office.

Grace Fu would have the right to sue Chan for copyright infringement if not for the fact that she was not exactly original either.

Chan also tries to condescend to the level of peasantry by making a food analogy involving hawker food. Unfortunately his fall to the ground was broken by some heavenly tree branch as he compared hawker center carrot cake to Peach Garden carrot cake.

“You go to Peach Garden, you eat the S$10 XO Sauce chye tow kuay (fried carrot cake), you can be quite happy right? Because you are satisfied with the service and so on. On the other hand, you can go to a hawker centre, even if they charge you S$1.50, you might not want to eat it if the quality is not good.”

Hah? Simi Peach Garden? Boh tia guey leh.

Pardon my inability to evaluate the validity of the comparison. I feel sad that Peach Garden now shares the same fate as Kate Spade, but I have never been to Peach Garden or tasted its supremely delicious carrot cake. Neither can I remember the last time I actually paid $1.50 for carrot cake at any hawker center. Perhaps Chan gets special discounts? When Chan goes to an expensive dining place, it’s not something I can afford. When he goes to a cheap one, it’s not something I can find. This conclusively repudiates any claim that Singapore is a tiny island. How small could it be when it could fit at least two very different worlds, namely mine and Chan’s.

Molly believes that Chan will be glad that at least she is willing to acknowledge her inability to understand his allusions. Many merciless netizens are criticizing him instead. This is really unforgivable. Surely even the dumbest person in Singapore should know by now that he has got to be misquoted, misunderstood, and/or misconstrued. (Synonyms welcomed.)

Instead of being agitated by Chan, we ought to appreciate the Great Truths his words of wisdom contain.

List of Great Truths which we can glean from Chan’s comments:

1. The PAP gahmen is the best on Earth and Mars—and some say Jupiter.

2. The PAP costs so much because of its quality.

3. The salary and quality of a politician are directly proportionate.

Based on the third Great Truth, the world finds itself having to cope with some hard truths.

Premise 1: Those who do not cost as much are not as good.

Premise 2: PAP ministers are the most highly paid in the world.

Shocking Conclusion: No other government in the world is as good as that formed by the PAP.

No wonder the world is so screwed up. But this is a world crisis that has a simple solution. As long as a government decides that its ministers should be as well paid as Singapore’s ministers, it would mean that it is just as good as the PAP. All it takes is some political will and lots of docile citizens. The only foreseeable problem, surely, is that no other government in the world dares to pay itself as much because they know they pale in comparison to the top talents in the world (i.e. the PAP) who make brilliant analogies and implement ingenious policies that worsen the people’s quality of life with each passing day.

Based on the chye tow kuey theory, we could also do some interesting Math.

The ratio of Lee Hsien Loong’s (post reduction) pay: Barack Obama’s is 4: 1

If Lee is $10.50 chye tow kuey, Obama is $2.625 carrot cake.

Obama,

I think I should sell prata instead, Molly.

(Later I will go downstairs and tell the chye tow kuey uncle downstairs that he is more capable than Obama because his chye tow kuey costs $3 per plate. He should really go into politics. At least he is friendly and never talks down to me. Neither does he ever claim that he sells the best chye tow kuey in Singapore.)

The ratio of Lee’s pay: David Cameron’s is 8: 1.

Cameron is a pathetic $1.3125 chye tow kuey. Which makes him worse than the $1.50 one Chan was talking about.

I suddenly see the rationale behind Singapore’s massive defense budget. All it takes is crap-spewer to offend the rest of the world. Using the chye tow kuey theory though, I’m afraid our conscripted soldiers will not match up to those from the rest of the world—they are not even paid a salary and this can only mean that they are amongst the worst soldiers in the world.

I must emphasize, despite all the logic and Math above, that the PAP team did not join politics because of the high pay. (We can only say that they might leave politics or refrain from joining it if the pay is not high enough.) Thanks to Chan Chun Sing, we now can be certain that, over the years, we have wasted millions and millions of dollars on ministers’ salaries and pensions to attract top talent. Since our PAP politicians did not join politics because of the pay, they must have been lying to us when they told us that top money is needed to attract top talent. Or, if they were not lying, it must be the case that they are not top talents, which makes their original justification . . .

Thanks Chan Chun Sing! The nonsensical façade of your comments belie the insights they offer!

Not to worry though. Come 2016, 60% Singaporeans will still buy a plate of $10.50 chye tow kuey that had already expired in the 1980s, leaving the other 40% with severe food poisoning.*

*Statistics for illustrative purposes only.

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