Ministerial Pay Debate

January 24, 2012 by staff 

Ministerial Pay Debate, With the long and extensive debate on ministerial pay – in traditional media, online media, and most recently in Parliament – the last thing I want to do is discuss whether the cuts that will most likely be implemented were suitable.

If you examine the arguments thus far, you will realise that there are three camps. The first says that the cuts are sufficient and the formula used in their computation is generally good. The second says the proposed package is still too much and the cuts can be deeper, particularly when benchmarked against other countries. The third says the cuts are irrelevant because the formula used in the computation is not right to begin with.

Notice that there is no camp that currently says the cuts are too much. Apparently, even the ruling People’s Action Party has to acknowledge that a perceptibly sizeable pay cut to a ludicrously high pay package is necessary, for what ever the reasons.

Roughly, the second camp (argument for even deeper cuts) represents the voice of the ground, which is clearly the direct opposite position to the first camp (cuts are adequate).

The debate between these two positions is pointless, as some have pointed out. The cuts will never be deep enough to make sense to citizens, nor shallow enough (no pun intended) to satisfy our government’s insistence on adequate compensation.

But what more interesting is the discourse practiced by these polar camps. I want to discuss these narratives because in them lies the root of an important question: What on earth is all the fuss and dissatisfaction about?

Those supporting the cuts almost always use the following terms: Sacrifice, not a priesthood, value for money, talent acquisition and retention, ability, clean wage, no perks. Camp One champions are members of the ruling party, but also include voices like those of Calvin Cheng and Eugene K B Tan.

And those demanding deeper cuts use these terms: Privilege, service to nation and citizens, intrinsic value, fair wage, accountability, international benchmark. Camp Two champions are, well, pretty much everyone else, with a possible overlap into Camp Three.

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