The AIG fallout
The stubborn persistence to be paid huge bonuses even when the company was going bust and needing US$185 billion in public money to keep it afloat is the height of plain stupidity and abusive arrogance. The House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel called it 'Near criminal indulgence.' The Americans were outraged. But will the expectation of high and exorbitant pay and bonuses continues to be the way of life or will they see the end of an era of robbers and thieves? Paul Heng, the MD of NeXT Career Counsulting here thought that it could be the beginning of the end of big, fat, obscene bonuses. Singapore is not free from such near criminal indulgence. We have been blindly and greedily following the Wall Street thieves in their daylight robbery and extortion of public money or shareholders money. And the best part is that we are proclaiming that our pay is still too low, not enough, they needed to be pay more. How much more? How much is enough? When an employee can throw away $50k for a cooking course, you cannot be so blind not to know that he is obviously being paid too much that he can't wait to burn it away. As a public policy, it is of great importance to pay the employees well, especially the talented, for them to live well and contribute well to society and country. But when paying well becomes excessively well, something must be gravely wrong. Then there are other consequences in the formula. High pay, high consumption, high cost of living, high cost of everything that needs higher pay is like a dog chasing its own tail. The workers are working just to keep paying for their food and essentials. At the lower end, the high cost of living is just that. No money left for anything, not even for retirement. And forget about an expensive cooking class. The govt has a very important responsibility to grapple with high cost and high pay controversy. What it should least do is to add to it and make this vicious cycle turn even wilder. The workers can never earn enough when other agencies are all waiting, counting how much they have in their pockets and CPF, and price their products and services to make sure that every cent is taken away from them. This is called affordability pricing or market pricing. A way to make sure that what you earn is just enough for them to take away. Many still cannot see the woods from the forest and think all these high property prices and high pay is a good thing. So the high HDB price, the high medical fees, education, etc are all affordable and good. The high rentals that the landlords are charging the shops and businesses are paid by the consumers, every cent of it. What is important is to curb the growing cost that often is unncessary and self inflicted. When cost is lower, the people can live more comfortably with lesser pay. The value of money is not eroded away that fast. Otherwise the money in the CPF, even a few hundred thousands, may worth nothing when it is time to take them out. And if the cost of 2 or 3 bungalows continues to go up, the public employees will demand that they are not paid enough and want to be paid in 10 or 20 millions. Hold the madness. Stop the dog from chasing its tail. It is never ending. It is unrestrained greed. The best part, the balloon must burst one day.