In the midst of the current debate, one that is clearly one-sided in its presentation of evidence and showing, there has been a serious lack of intellectual and logical analysis from those who would esprout and support the fictitious notion that wealthy political leaders can only perform better when they receive huge generous salary increases. Yes, there are particular members of our class-stratified society who deserve pay increases (i.e. social workers, teachers, and the more "unglamorous" positions of the civil and social service sector), but what has transpired is pure robbery from the rich political elites of those who truly serve and contribute to society. There have been some who have been bought by this seductive line of absurd reasoning, which is not only disturbing but also requires a strong and indisputable counter-response. Unfortunately, in the current socio-political climate, the consistency and strength of well-constructed arguments do not guarantee the right outcomes, but nevertheless we all have our part to demolish this sad artifice of implementing policies backed by vacuous evidence and emotional heart-pulling.
The latter is directly easy to answer. As typical of the ruling elite, their weapon to opposition voices and dissent is through personal attacks and just as similar, their defence is to position themselves as personal saints. The key warning here to all is that one should not be deceived into believing that it is ok to support ridiculous salary increases simply by virtue of the Prime Minister's flowery display of charity. By that same rationale, the poorer-income families, who have been shown (through years of research) to donate a more disproportionate amount of their household income to charity organisations, deserve to have enormous salary increases as well. These are the games of a politician pulling on his supporter's heart-strings, to convey an image of innocence and benevolence, but at the same time refusing to acknowledge that he is also the benefactor of a huge government corporation from his family members. The moral ground is not on the same platform for if he is allowed to plead for recognition of his virtuous character, then he is also entitled to be personally attacked for a false show of hypocrisy (e.g. why donate your surplus salary now in this political situation, rather than before? Why don't you donate more? Which independent organisation is going to ensure that you adhere to your promise?) and more than likely, false promises.
Even if it were to be true that these ministers live up to their words, it wouldn't in the least bit prove that increasing their salaries over 30% is justifiable. Charitable acts are only praised when performed in the risk of personal deprivation, and not when someone is trying to gain social approval for an unacceptable proposal.
That's where we get to the central argument which echoes like this: Unless political leaders receive this pay rise, which is competitive with the private sector, we will lose talented politicians of all kinds and the entire government will crumble in the face of civilisation. Or as a concrete example as expressed by an interlocutor, nobody will work in the civil sector if there are more monetary benefits in the private sector, e.g. banker, lawyer, corporate manager.
Of course, the whole obvious question about why people work in occupations that are not the best-paying, but provides other satisfiable personal goals (e.g. job satisfaction, passion and interest) get thrown out the window, and we are led to assume that people simply go where the money is. If that's true, then fine, one can be led to accept the argument that the best teachers, police officers, road sweeper, hawker food store man, admin assistant and whathave you are those who receive the most pay. What is the objective? To ensure that we have an educational, health, retail and administrative service that works for the people of Singapore. But somehow this argument fails unless the lines are changed to Ministers and Public Service.
But even before accepting this poorly concocted sense of reality, there is a really simple hypothesis being adduced here; Namely, provide conclusive evidence, whether through causation or corrlelation, that higher pay salaries will lead to improved social benefits. And obviously, this is a gigantic task to prove, because by increasing the salaries of the entire government, by direct effect, the public should expect better healthcare, more efficient transport costs, a booming job market or economy (that is more than just an increase in contract retail jobs) and higher (but easier) standard of living. But more importantly, all of these performance indicators have to be measured by the people independently.
Unfortunately, for our misguided ministers, asides from self-produced propaganda or lazy research and analysis, they will not find any study that demonstrates the stated hypothesis. No country or society has yet to experience a 50% increase in their health well-being, personal and household income, or a easier standard of living by stuffing in more money into the pockets of politicians. In fact, ironically, in other parts of the world, I believe they call it another word. I leave it to you to think for yourself what it is.
Further, not barring the excellent criticism and analysis produced by Alex
from Yawning Bread, in regards to the bench mark system, there remains the simple question: why should the Ministers' pay be tallied against the private sector? Certainly, the production of their labour is different; for the corporation, it is profits, and for the public sector, it is the well-being of the public. There is no basis as to how or why Ministers deserve the same credit reward from the results of the private sector. The reverse logic certainly doesn't apply: the corporate sector don't attempt to set their salary figures according to the public sector range, and if they did, they wouldn't be able to produce any deducible reason for it.
The cry for talent is also a tool of deceit and dishonesty that ought to be teared down. The problematic feature in this argument is that somehow, there is a recognizable set of traits, skills, intellect and expertise when it comes to politics and governance. But when one is invited to have a closer look at the real picture, the citizen will start to realise a few things: 1) as far as any talent is displayed, it is not from the sole mentor-and workman-ship of the Minister but the collaboration of many social workers, research analysts, and other concerned members of the public, including voluntary workers, who reach out to these high men and women in high chairs for their political will and action; 2) the system of governing a country involves not any special set of skills and leadership but simply the bestowment of political and economic power; 3) that even if these are the most untalented, incompetent and ungifted Ministers, there wouldn't be any democratic and accountable way to ensure they suffer the consequences of their policies.
Let's make it crystal clear. One does not need an argument against increasing the wallets of big fat (lying) cats, you only need an argument in favor of this policy shift, of which is not only ludricious but is void of any sound logical reasoning and empirical evidence. The analogy is perfectly plain: If a member of the family (for sake of example), the father were to proclaim that he deserves to own and utilize a higher disproportionate amount of the household savings, because he has crafted a safe and harmomious stable family through his brilliant intellect and talent, we would simply laugh, because the truth is so clear: Not only is there no basis on such a judgment, but his performance as a caring member of the family is not determined by how much resources he owns. We certainly would think there will be far better men equipped for the role of fatherhood in the case. On a microlevel, the picture is not so significant but when you move up to the socio-political realm, where there is curbing of freedom of speech, where there is no independent verification of the performance and results, when people are not enpowered to hold these powerful men to account, then you know it is a lot more serious than just stuffing some priviledged elities with more money.
The principle of democracy, one that is barely upheld here, rears its head once again. For if a majority segment of the population can't even organise, design and propose their own countries' policies with transparency and accountability, then talk is cheap. Unfortunately, the citizens of Singapore are paying outrageous prices for it.