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.

20 Responses

  1. It is a judgement call (DPM TCH)
    Whatever package (high or low) or clean wage approach, accountability cannot be compromised. Especially after Lee Bee Wah’s remarks of “further sacrificed” and Amy Khor’s “growing white hairs and holding mutlple roles”, we voters ached to see those people holding the positions for too long. in a way we must let their political careers shortend and not let them “sacrifice to the last minute”. I believe we Singaporeans are not that unreasonable. I believe we Singaporeans are not that cruel to expect politicians to run the country under “discount environment”. Let the changes to be more often.

  2. On the one hand we are constantly reminded to compare our pay to that of cheap foreign labors in order to remain competitive. On the other they show no regrades and felt completely justified to pay themselves multiple times that of the highest paid politicians around the world!

  3. Ah Teo said that the new package was a balanced package and reflects whatever and asked the parliament to support it. But he said the same thing five years ago. So which version is correct now, or both wrong?

    • The package five years ago was balanced in its context and the current one is balanced in its context. If we want to tilt the balance further, we would have to change the context more. 🙂

  4. Our system is so clean and transparent that not many Singaporeans know that the annual compensation for 2010 for the ministers was 34.5 months, plus pension. Now, which private sector employer pay that kind of bonuses – almost double the base salary? Those companies that used to pay these kind of obscene bonuses where mainly the investment bankers. And even then, only the top top dealers and traders get that kind of bonuses. And what happened to those Lehman Brothers employees now?

    • That’s why need to pay the PAP even more! Surely you don’t want Singapore to end up like the Lehman Brothers?

    • Those clowns can tell us the system when it is only revealed publicly that they have been paying themselves these ridiculous amount due to COI.

      Hello, that tell us we need more COI to investigate the govt. The loss of TH, GIC, the conflict of interest in GLC … I sure too that our clowns will say that they are transparent too !

  5. This might sound crude but I am serious. Molly, you single still? Heard several of new Ministers’ PAs are single. Marry them and you will automatically become talented. I am really not pulling your leg. The long held believe that you can only pass your brilliant genes to your children has been proven wrong.

    Apparently these “Division 1 Super talents” have what they call “Super Sperm”. Get laid by them and you become a super talent immediately. You will become such a talent overnight that you transform from a engineer doing procurement to a expert in soverign fund investment. You will become so talented that you can adopt a long term position of loosing money for ten years and continue selling country assets but will never lose your job. Even the less powerful super sperm makes you a MP minimum.

    Now just imagine, if you get laid by the “founding father of the super sperm” what level of greatness you will achieve

  6. I had high hope before listening to the self-proclaimed supper talent justifying their out of this world salary when compared to the other world leaders. I was hoping to be enlighten so that I can play my part in spreading the message on why our ministers are unique and that the supper pays are justified. I was shocked that all he could offer was “don’t compare”! Guess they would not hesitate paying themselves whatever they want with no regrades!

    • You see, the problem is the pay cut. After the pay cut, suddenly they are less talented. Don’t blame them. It’s the people’s fault.

  7. Molly, you are the most amazing writer I have seen in the Singapore blogosphere. You’ve got a great handle of logic and can twist sentences (correctly) to expose its ridiculous sides. Especially liked your previous post on Chan. Usually what I read on other “anti-govt” Singapore sites, if I may call them that, make my blood boil when its so shallow and logically incorrect…makes me sympathize with our dear govt.

    Are you a professional writer?

    • Thanks, awsum. I’m not working as a writer, but will consider job offers with pay packages meant to attract top talents. :p

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