I had a really interesting discussion over Facebook’s private messages with a friend who supports the Opposition.  Some of the points she brought up… and my view of these points:

1. Ministers’ Salaries

Her point: One sign of PAP’s corruption is that they pay themselves the highest salaries in the world, and they do it because they can.  For e.g. Lee Hsien Loong earns approximately USD 2.8mil annually whereas the US President US$400,000 annually, along with a $50,000 annual expense account, a $100,000 non-taxable travel account and $19,000 for entertainment

My view: it’s our ministers who get paid well, not PAP. Should the opposition parties one day show that they are capable of running Singapore, they will be entitled to the high pay too. Sure, politicians in other countries, e.g. US, are paid lower than in Singapore. But the non-cash perks they have (housing, security, private jets, etc) are way more than what our ministers are paid.  For e.g., it costs a whopping US$181,757 per hour to operate Air Force One!!  Given the amount of travelling the US President does a year, do you know how much that works out to?

I thus don’t think it’s fair to just use salaries as a basis of comparison. I think we should look into the overall amount it costs taxpayers to support a politician.

Perhaps more importantly, a lot of overseas politicians do not stay to serve the country longterm. They come in for a term or two, then they move back to the private sector knowing that that short pay "sacrifice" while they are in public office will be easily recouped once they rejoin the private sector with all their political connections.  I don’t think this sort of high turnover is beneficial to the country.

2. Casinos

Her point: Allowing casinos to be built has ruined PAP’s moral standing.  She personally knows 3 people who have been financially ruined by gambling.

My view: I believe an individual must take responsibility for his own actions. Many people are also ruined from playing the stock market. Should we then remove SGX? And I’m not saying this from a bystander point of view. My dad has lost over a million in shares in the past. But my dad just worked harder to make back the money. It may be tough, but definitely possible.

3. Not Upgrading Non-PAP Wards

Her point: Not upgrading non-PAP wards is morally wrong as these people also serve NS, pay taxes, and this would never happen in other developed democracies.

My view: I think we have to be clear that PAP didn’t say their flats would never get upgraded. But there’s a queue for all the flats to be upgraded and so they were placed at the end of the queue. From a PAP voter point of view, I think that’s fair. U can’t have your cake & eat it. If I supported the ruling party at the last elections, then I expect to have certain "priority" when it comes to things like HDB upgrading. I would certainly be annoyed if a non-PAP ward got upgraded before a PAP ward.

4. Workfare Bonus

Her point: Workfare bonus goes into CPF & not our pockets so it’s all for show.

My view: CPF pays a much higher interest rate than banks so this sort of forced savings for retirement is not a bad idea. It provides a basic safety net for the masses when they retire. The financially savvy would know that they should not put all their eggs in one basket.  I think the last global financial crisis has shown you never know what may go wrong. So why shouldn’t a diversified portfolio include CPF (together with stocks, fixed deposits, unit trusts, etc)? For those who are not financially savvy, all the more they need more $$ in their CPF when they retire.

We finally agreed to disagree…politics is like religion – you can never convince or persuade someone to come round to your point of view, but I certainly enjoy an exchange of views.  Smile

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April 2011