Below message was sent to TODAY but never published. Pls circulate.
From: Brian Wong Tuck Meng
To: TODAY firstname.lastname@example.org
8 June 2005
THE REAL NEMESIS: A BLOATED BUREAUCRACY
I refer to below article from Chong Lee Ming in the 8 June 2005 issue of TODAY. The author makes a staunch defense for government policy makers which I personally cannot agree with
One remark which was totally inaccurate was as follows: "Bear in mind that the civil servants who formulated the policies live among us, and their thoughts and ideas are shaped by the society they live in."
Policy formulation (depending on the subject matter and scope) usually lie well beyond the domain of the average civil servant. It is the superscale senior level administrators and very highly paid ministers who have a direct hand in shaping and implementing these policies (and they certainly take the credit for it too).
Do these very well paid individuals live amongst us, walk in our shoes, eat from the same bowl and smoke the same pipe as us? Do these well paid policy makers (in their ivory towers) know what its like supporting a family with 2 kids on a household income of SGD3,000 per month? I think not.
A vast irreconcilable disparity in income levels separates these lofty policy makers from the humble man on the street. Lets pause here and see how large this income disparity (between a minister and average worker)is. Conservative estimates of a Singapore Minister (who is a policy maker) basic salary starts around the region of SGD1.2 million p.a. This does not include bonuses and other incidental income the minister earns in the many hats he wears, and also excludes fringe benefits and nest-egg/retirement endowments.
I repeat that these are conservative figures which exclude many add-ons so the actual take home of a Singapore Minister is much higher. The Singapore Prime Minister's basic is even higher at SGD2 million per annum. And the President's salary stands at approx SGD2.4 million per annum. No salary figures are available for the position of Minister Menthor.
The point here is that these are a very well-paid lot of policy makers who are blissfully shielded from the trials and tribulations of the average working Joe. And it is these same group of lofty millionaires who will decide on takes that will materially and directly affect our lives even whilst they remain shielded from the effects of their own policies.
In view of these very handsome salaries, Singaporeans have a right to expect far more from their leaders. Otherwise what's the justification if they deliver no better insights then the obvious solutions that anyone can think of (e.g. extend ERP gantries and rates everytime congestion occurs).
Below is an article from Miss Mellanie Hewlitt which basically hit the nail on the head when she questioned whether a minister who takes home such huge salaries can ever identify with the needs and aspirations of the average Singaporean. Miss Catherine Lim also addressed this issue more diplomatically in her old article "PAP and the people: A return of disaffection?" (see:
It is apparent that the vast majority of Singaporeans do not feel these inflated salaries are justified at all. But somehow the local press is always able to come up with fascinating numbers which say Singaporeans are happy with their lot, without actually addressing this issue.
For instance the Head Lines of the Straits Times today stated "Govt okays youths' ideas for change". But is this really the case? There have been countless suggestions to reduce Ministerial Salaries to more credible and realistic levels, e.g. around SGD150,000 per annum which is still more then what 80% of income earning households make. But this would amount to a 85% reduction in salaries for the well paid ministers.
If this government really wants to show it is serious about accepting recommendations for change, than Singapore's Leaders should lead by example and take a 85% pay-cut. Talk is so easy but walking the talk is a different matter. And when they have the mental and character to take this route, they will then perhaps appreciate what it is like to walk in the average man's shoes and support a family with an income of SGD3,000/- here in Singapore. Until they take this challenge Singapore's million dollar ministers have a serious credibility problem on their hands, not just in Singapore but all over the world.
Finally Mr Chong Lee Ming should note that the real nemesis here is not a "complaining public" but a a very fat and bloated ministerial cabinet which is unable to justify the vast amounts of tax dollars they take home.
Brian Wong Tuck