Ministerial Salaries by MP Hri Kumar


Hri Kumar


When this House discussed the issue of Ministerial salaries in 2007, I focused on the technicalities of the old formula, and what I thought was wrong with it.

But I had failed to appreciate a larger issue. Money changes how people look at things. Paying high salaries can be intellectually reasoned, but it affects the relationship between the Government and the people.

Government is not perfect. It has never been, and will never be. We have all, at one time or another, been critical of something the Government did or failed to do. But, as former American President Bill Clinton observed, a successful country needs both an effective government and a good economy. There are no exceptions. In Singapore, we have both. Other government leaders, international institutions and expert commentators agree that Singapore, and what we have achieved, is exceptional. This did not happen by chance. The people of Singapore deserve credit. And so does the Government.

Singaporeans know this, and are appreciative of what the Government has done. But the issue of political salaries has, more than any other, shaped and changed the tone of our national dialogue. When we pay top dollar, we expect top results, and are less forgiving of errors. And so it has become with the way people treat Government. Any mis-step is met with the response that mistakes are unacceptable from highly paid leaders. Things have now become more “transactional”. That emotional connection, that redoubtable bond, which Singaporeans have always had with the Government, and which has been the bedrock of Singapore’s success, is at risk of disappearing.

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