Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A log and a speck of dust

Some time ago, I gave the reasons on why I don't disgree with the ministerial pay rise. Of course, this doesn't mean that I agree with it. It just means that the issue is very complex, coloured very much by emotions and impossible to decide on a purely rational basis. I don't want to go into the merits and demerits of the issue but I think I have learned a few things about people in general over the course of the debate.

Most of the Singaporean undergraduates and graduates in my university are vehemently against the pay rise. That's hardly surprising. Those who are not against it simply don't care. I think I'm probably the only person around who has said that the pay rise is not necessarily a bad thing although I try to keep my opinions to myself. On the other hand, this doesn't mean that I believe that the pay rise is a great idea.

Some of the common arguments against the pay rise that I have heard from m are:
  1. Our political leaders and senior civil servants are greedy. They should be be willing to incur some financial sacrifice for public service.
  2. They are highly over-rated and already overpaid since none of them had worked in Goldman Sachs, McKinley, etc. They usually get shuffled off to comfy jobs in the GLCs after their stint in the public sector.
  3. They are out of touch with the common people whom they are suppose to serve.
Of course, these criticisms are very fair. Defenders of the pay rise usually have trouble answering them; the PAP politicians just avoid them entirely.

Amidst the barrage of protests against the pay rise, I couldn't help but notice that many of the people around me who made those criticisms were also recipients of scholarships awarded by the Singapore government or GLCs. Obviously, these scholarships don't come cheap and only the government and the GLCs give them out in Singapore. I've been told by a lady friend that if she were to break her bond, she would have had to fork out over 350K SGD in liquidated damages.

So, when the arguments about financial sacrifice and all that came up, I thought of asking some of the critics if they would have signed up with the public sector if they hadn't got the scholarships. Or that if they could have got equivalent scholarships from *real* private sector companies like the Boston Consulting Group. Or how in touch with the common people they were, living overseas with comfortable allowances paid for by taxpayers. Perhaps, they can consider donating part of their allowances to poor families so that the latter wouldn't have to rely on monthly public handouts of $290?

No. In the end, I didn't ask these questions. It would have been too awkward and discomforting. But even though some things remain unarticulated, I hope that there are those among us who know of and understand a great man's teaching about removing logs and specks of dust from the eyes.

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