Archive for January, 2012

January 17, 2012

Well, the Singapore parliament report will take a while to be published, so, for now, let’s take a look at the Straits Times coverage of yesterday’s sitting of parliament, and what the MPs have had to say on the ministerial pay review. As the most widely circulated broadsheet in Singapore, the Straits Times ought to have some credibility, right?

Before carrying on, I wish to establish my position on the ministerial pay review.¬† Of the three constantly parroted principles governing the review committee, my main gripe is with its stance that salaries must be competitive with the private sector, and the implicit assumption that they must be large enough to attract the right kind of talent. As PAP MP Denis Phua put it, pegging salaries to those of Singaporean top earners “smacks of elitism”. Under both the existing framework for ministerial compensation and the soon to be implemented new one, constituents are expected to swallow wholesale the baloney that capable political talent can only be drawn from the ranks of those who are capable of earning sackloads of cash outside of politics. By establishing the scope of the review committee through its three principles, the government has tried to cater to populist sentiment whilst still maintaining the position that politically talented people only work in fields where the big bucks are to be found: finance, top management, law, and accountancy, and definitely not in areas such as medicine, social work, or academia.

The review committee’s report can be found here. I am of the opinion that proposals it received to peg salaries to the median wage of Singaporeans, or that of lower-income Singaporeans (point 66b), is a better option that the one it has finally settled on. If the committee had taken on this proposal, and made the proportion of the National Bonus (dependent on indicators of employment, wage growth, and inequality) larger, it would reflect accountability of ministers to the well-being of residents, and should spur ministers to work towards across-the-board real wage growth as well as increased wage equality. While detractors have decried the option, stating that the value of the multiplier is arbitrary, it is useful to note that a 40% discount of the median wage of the top 1000 earners in Singapore uses two arbitrary numbers as well. Combined with the fact that the majority of the bonuses ministers can expect to receive comprise of automatic bonuses (13th month/AVC) and performance bonuses decided solely by the Prime Minister, we have a ministerial compensation policy that only pays lip service to the idea of accountability to the public and indicators of public well-being.

While a multiple of the median wage seems to be a better option (if one is willing to reject the unspoken belief that political talent only comes from the pool of people in top-earning professions, and that compensation should reflect this), even better (in my opinion) is the WPs proposal that compensation be pegged to that of MP allowances. This proposal is absent from the review committee’s list of proposals, for a perfectly good reason. And this is where the disingenuity of the Straits Times and the sheer stubborn boneheadedness of some PAP MPs comes into the spotlight.

The reason this proposal is absent from the review committee’s report is that MP allowances are currently pegged to ministerial pay. So, trying to implement that proposal would be circular, impossible, and quite ludicrously stupid. And that last one is how the Straits Times and those PAP MPs seem to appear right now. On page A12 of today’s Straits Times, under the headline “WP plans differ little from recommendations: PAP MPs”, PAP MPs reportedly state that the WP’s proposal is, in principle, no difference from the committee’s recommendations. Apparently, Dr Amy Khor sees no difference in the committee’s recommendations, that ministerial pay be directly linked to top earners (supposedly where all the talent is), and that of having it as a multiple of MP allowance, which is compensation for the political work expected of an MP.

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Normal service will resume shortly; we apologise for any incompetence

January 15, 2012

It’s a new year and time for fresh starts, hurrah!

Well, actually it’s been more than two weeks, and now is pretty late to be making new year’s posts; so, not only will there be a late post to ring in the new year, there shall be excuses as well:
Namely, that 2011 has been dismal and 2012 promises more of the same; if a new year falls into our laps and no one around sees any hope of fresh beginnings or better things on the horizon, is it still a new year? Or does it simply count as another day ticked off the countdown clock; another ordinary step towards the still-distant finish?

If anything, what I’ve learnt about myself in 2011 is that I can be quite a lot more nasty, unpleasant, impatient, or easily angered than how I usually am, believe I project, or wish I was. NS has brought out the worst in me and as much as I don’t like the SAF and its management, I don’t like much of what I saw in myself in 2011, even as I indulged in smug superiority or impatient self-righteousness. I used to take some small pride in having no patience for fools; although I still believe I’ve met plenty of fools and endless incompetence, a retrospective look at my reactions to it leaves me ashamed of my judgmental-ness and condescending-ness. Impatience and frustration are bad enough habits which have resurfaced in 2011, of which I’m not proud, but even worse is to let that grow into personal hatred and letting it boil over for everyone to see.

Hmmm, this post wasn’t meant to be a retrospective on that, but I guess it’ll serve as a timely reminder, especially when I ORD and look back with, if not fond memories, then at least not complete bitterness. And of course, there will be memories of NSFs to treasure.

What I did mean to get on with, before a detour into bitterness and embarrassment, was how much I miss a lot of good things. Like reading¬† and writing, which took an extended hiatus on account of training requirements and university applications. Glad those applications are done, and now it’s in the hands of God. Speaking of which, God is something else I’ve taken something of a sabbatical from I’m afraid. Hence, the to-do list: turn around and stop fleeing from God; read; write; face the future, both immediate and long term, with equanimity and calm.

In parting, apologies (if they are in order) for not posting for two months and a day, apologies for the disjointedness of this post (mostly apologies to future me I suppose). Apologies for incompetence and inconvenience (if any); normal service will resume shortly.