Singapore has priced honesty correctly
A Singaporean, I presumed, Kanagasabai Haridas wrote to the ST forum with the above heading. I am trying to grasp what is his real message, a statement of approval or a poke at the issue of honesty and corruption in the city state? Kanagasabai mentioned four reasons why Singapore must pay the price to prevent its govt officials from going the corrupt way, by paying them of course. First we are a young country and the spirit or culture of goodness or incorruptibility is lacking. No choice but to pay or bribe. Two, the turnover of ministers in other countries are high. Our ministers remained in the job for a very long time, ie more opportunity and temptation to be corrupt. So the longer they stay in the job, the higher must they be paid to prevent them from becoming corrupt. This is very logical. Three, the candidates came to office relatively poor and wanted to make their fortune. Unlike the example of Hank Paulson who could serve the country out of conviction alone, the case of candidates that have not made their fortune is precarious. He added that in the American case, the candidates could also leave the govt and ended in high paying cosy jobs which Singapore did not have that luxury. More reasons not to pay exceptionally well. Finally he said Singapore leaders could not go on a lecture circuit to make their money after leaving office. This is true. So must make the fortune while in office. The bottom line of Kanagasabai’s position is that money is the main motivating factor and money must be paid to keep a person from becoming corrupt. This is exactly the same as the govt’s position. People may agree or disagree with his version of human goodness and motivation. If he is right, then we should revise our govt’s pay formula and forget about pegging them to the market. Just measure the corruptibility index of the person. Pay the person the amount to keep him from becoming corrupt. This is easier I think. But if this assumption is correct, it will also mean that the corruptibility index will rise over time or will follow the course of inflation. The higher the inflation, the higher will be the corruptibility index, and the more must be paid, or else corruption will be rampant. It is sad if we have to pay people to keep them from becoming corrupt. It defeats the purpose of education, in schools and in religious quarters, or in families. There is no need to teach about ethics, morals and goodness. Having said this, I have to agree that pragmatism prevails. Pay and pay for good govt must be the mantra for a young country that has not developed a culture of goodness, honesty and high morals. It is all about money.