High expectations of MPs not unreasonable

It is true that we have high expectations of our MPs and Cabinet ministers ("Do we expect too much of our ministers and MPs?"; May 16). However, I do not think these high expectations are unreasonable.

The job of a politician, more than anyone else's, carries immense gravity.Politicians are ultimately responsible for formulating public policy that will directly and indirectly impact the well-being of millions of Singaporeans.

Considering the stakes involved, it is only natural that Singaporeans would demand candidates of the highest calibre who are well-versed in policy matters, and expect elected officials to perform to the highest degree of competence.

One could say that the sheer power and influence that ministers have over the direction of the country is paid for in stress and pressure.

That Singaporean legislators rank among the highest-paid public officials in the world also indicates that we are providing a fair amount of financial remuneration for their contributions, which is more than proportionate to the scale of their job.

We must also bear in mind that these men and women were not forced into these positions; they chose to enter politics.

By running for election, and by accepting their appointments, they were not only aware of the occupational hazards, but also brave enough to willingly accept the burden that would inevitably be placed upon them.

That said, there are, of course, a few courses of action worth considering in order to reduce MPs' workloads, thereby allowing them to focus their time and energy on the more critical aspects of their work.

Under the status quo, MPs are also expected to be technocrats, managing their own town councils in addition to doing work on the ground and in Parliament. Already, this is problematic, since not all elected candidates have prior experience in this field.

Shifting town council management to the civil service would ease MPs' workloads considerably, freeing them up to play the arguably more vital role of conduits between the people and the state.

Nevertheless, in the words of British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill, politicians must still be fully prepared to offer their "blood, toil, tears and sweat".

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2016, with the headline 'High expectations of MPs not unreasonable'. Print Edition | Subscribe