Perception of 'excessive' pay can weaken faith in public sector

While I appreciate that Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong spoke from experience and with good intentions, I do not think his statement has adequately addressed Singaporeans' concerns over ministerial salaries (Cut pay for ministers? S'pore will pay price: ESM Goh; Aug 8).

Singaporean MPs remain significantly higher paid than their counterparts in other developed nations, such as Britainor Germany, even after factoring in additional on-the-job benefits that those countries provide or disparities in the costs of living.

Most developed nations pay their ministers an equitable remuneration based on an average of the country's per capita gross domestic product.

The significance of this comparison is twofold.

First, Singaporeans may perceive this salary gap as an incongruity.

Even if the Government presents logical justifications for its pay structure, the popular perception of "excessive salary" will remain, and that can have the very tangible effect of undermining faith in public institutions.

Thus, while Mr Goh's position is well argued, I do not think Singaporeans have been convinced.

Second, it casts doubts on the argument that competitive salaries are required to attract top talent.

Indeed, the Cabinets of the above-mentioned countries are staffed with highly qualified and capable individuals willing to forgo private-sector opportunities and remuneration to serve their electorate.

This harks back to Singapore's first generation of leaders, who poured their talents and energies into the nation-building project without the expectation of a handsome salary.

Do we not desire this spirit of self-sacrificial service in our leaders?

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2018, with the headline 'Perception of 'excessive' pay can weaken faith in public sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe