Home > I too have been misunderstood, Singapore Scene > I too have been misunderstood

I too have been misunderstood

Never in the history of Singaporehave so many of our politicians and officials been misunderstood. Poor Penny Low’s enthusiasm in sharing the National Day celebrations with her constituents through a text message was misunderstood as being disrespectful to the National Anthem. Tsk tsk Singapore. Poor Seng Han Thong’s attempt to excuse broken English was thwarted by his own poor English, and he was branded racist! Another misunderstood one. Then of course Grace Fu’s facebook note was lambasted. However she was misunderstood:

In her reply, she said: “Thank you all for your candid views. I respect all of them. I realise my last posting could have been misunderstood. The committee has done a thorough job with a substantial recommendation over a fairly emotive topic. I accept and respect the recommendations.

Problem is I am not sure what we have misunderstood.

Then PUB was affronted when Singaporeans misunderstood ponding inOrchard Rdfor a flood.

Just last week, Gerard Ee and his team were also misunderstood and he had to come out with clarifications.

While I am by no means in the same class as these – but in the spirit of unity, I am afraid I too have been misunderstood.

For a start, you misunderstand that I think top earners and professionals make the best politicians. Hence your rationale of pegging salaries to the top 1000 earners with a discount does not cut it for me. I mean, if this is to pacify a surgeon to become the Minister of Transport, or a stockbroker to become Minister of Defence then as far as I am concerned, this measure is counter productive. Wrong skill match as far as I am concerned.  The late Steve Jobs would probably not have made a good president, and if he had decided to take up that role, then I might never be introduced to Siri.

Second you misunderstand me in thinking I am a cheapskate and want my MPs and politicians to be paupers. Hey – I am proud of my country. It is an affluent country with enough resources to help shore up foreign banks, whether or not those investment decisions were wise. So I do not expect the representatives of my country to go around with patched up trousers and pasar malam ties, or to travel to inter-governmental summits on Budget Air. But then, as a peasant I have no understanding of how much, $1m dollars buy. It will be helpful to give me a little breakdown. Can it pay for the mortgage of a decent landed property, the car loan of a fancy car, the school fees in a good foreign university for two students, two family holidays to exotic countries per year, and for enough  plates of XO chai tow kuay atPeachGardento satisfy the extended family? How much is left over for retirement savings? Furthermore, how many actually suffer a paycut when they become parliamentarians?

Rear Admiral Teo misunderstands me when he sets the value on the “ethos” of public service at 40% discount to the median salary of the top 1000 earners. To me the ethos of public service is priceless. It comes with the sacrifice of time, a sharing of life with many in the constituency, a commitment to help strangers and a sincere heart to move the nation forward for the benefit of the citizens. When a dollar value is put to it, you cheapen the service. Their role is to serve. Our responsibility as citizens is to ensure they do not have to worry about finances while they serve.

Those who throw the final figure at me and say it is a reasonable salary misunderstands me. It is not about the quantum. Denise Phua understands. She says that top 1000 earners, the 40% discount is arbitrary and can be seen as elitist. Precisely. Maybe I misunderstand the ministerial review committee but to me it is as if they have worked out a number that is likely to be acceptable by the populace, look at the top 1000 earners and tweak the discount to match the number they have in mind. In 5 years time, given the widening gap between the rich and the poor, it may well be that this number is up by 300% while the income of the man on the street may not even have crawled up 10%. How to buy this computation? If the computation has to be tweaked every election, then I say that there is something wrong with it in the first place.

Then there is a clean wage versus hidden perks argument. You misunderstand that I want to see clean wages above all else. I want to see transparent wages. Perks need not be hidden either. Has the committee actually tabulated clean wage vs salary plus perks? At the end of the day, without a lifestyle downgrade for our politicians, which method will save the country money? While we are at it, can we have open declaration of total wages received by each parliamentarian each year? Including the amount spent on overseas travel and other attending allowances received while on official duty?

Just when I think no one in parliament understands me, I see a ray of hope. Chen Show Mao’s speech in parliament shows he understands. Denise Phua understands. Vikram Nair did not get it when he tried to indicate that the quantum proposed by WP is similar to the quantum the Review Committee came up with. It’s not about the quantum, it’s about the justification of the quantum.

Still, I am more hopeful now that some of my misunderstandings have been aired and hopefully will one day be addressed.

Incidentally, to be put in a fair word for our ministers, for them to accept such a hefty pay cut so soon after elections, without too many complaints, is praiseworthy. I hope that the next round of ministerial salary review will come before elections, not after, to give each potential candidate an idea of what to expect.

  1. patriot
    January 17, 2012 at 5:35 am

    It was never that they were misunderstood.


    The People ONLY want them to be
    competent, sincere and honourable,
    that is all the people need.


  2. nhg
    January 18, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    they will pay the price in2016

    • SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
      January 18, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      If they know how to listen and not just to speak. Sigh – i was more hopeful in late May.

  3. January 19, 2012 at 1:29 am

    I say those retards are not worth the money at all. Drawing huge salary but can’t even talk sensibly in public!
    Read my comments here.

  1. January 17, 2012 at 6:27 am

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