Good leaders needn't be top earners in private sector

The debate over ministers' pay has ruffled the feathers of many as it seems to equate pay with talent (ESM Goh: Salaries not starting point in search for ministers; Aug 9).

Many have pointed out that this is a flawed benchmark.

In modern Singapore, where many are trying to cope with the rising cost of living, the linking of pay with talent is a tinderbox issue, especially if it concerns politicians who are public servants entrusted to serve the people.

How will someone earning a million dollars understand those who are struggling to make a living?

Like it or not, many are likely to react with scepticism and will sense a disconnect when someone living in a bungalow says he is trying to understand those living in a one-room rental unit.

Only those with a passion to serve will understand.

Also, does a good politician with the talent and passion to serve have to come from among those earning millions in the private sector?

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung once pointed out that our future prime minister need not necessarily be a graduate.

We have to accept the fact that those who want to serve may not be top earners from the private sector, and millionaires may not necessarily be equipped with the attributes to serve the people.

Seah Yam Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2018, with the headline 'Good leaders needn't be top earners in private sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe