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.


Anonymous said...

When a man is corrupt, no matter how much you pay him, he will want more.

There is no such thing as how much you need to pay a man to make sure he will remain incorruptible. That is just a figment of one person's imagination, hoping to sell that notion to all and sundry. Not everybody buys into that.

Anonymous said...

I find it a funny that daft Singaporeans really believe that their politicians are corrupt.

Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Does PAP have absolute power, you go think about it.

Hypothetically, I am a minister and I am paid 3m a year. Where do I park this money after setting aside for living and children education expense and some investments. No one ever explored this but there is a 99.5% likelihood that some of their monies are parked in property.

When you are invested in something, if it unlikely you will implement policies that will decrease the value of your investment. Thus the continued rise of property prices because our dear ministers are all quite wholly invested in it.

Point being, is this corruption? Food for thought.

Pity the stupid Singaporeans

Anonymous said...

Last word on first sentence should be


Anonymous said...

Therein lies the definition of the term flying around for a long time - 'legalised corruption'

Matilah_Singapura said...

This is like an argument to negotiated rape.

1. The only reason a rapist is able to commit the act is because he has power over his powerless victim -- usually because the vic has had their freedom curtailed, and is threatened with hurt or death, i.e. forms of violence other than rape, so that the vic has no choice but to consider only 2 options: death/ serious injury or rape.

2. Therefore -- by the same "solid argument" given in redbean's post -- the way to deal with this problem is for all potential rape victims to willfully succumb to voluntary sex with rapists so that the rapists have their sexual desires "satisfied" and are thus unlikely to commit rape and violence on the victims.

So applied to high pay for government it goes: "We're gonna fuck you anyway, so your best bet is for you to let us fuck you regularly, a little bit to keep us honest"


And now a reminder about Constitutional Republicanism:

1. Founded on the idea derived from self-ownership and self governance -- i.e. I own myself, and I govern myself. I also own "my stuff" -- i.e. private property.

2. Self-ownership and self governance applied within the rubric of social contract -- i.e. we all own ourselves and our property, therefore as a group of individuals -- aka "a society/ culture" -- thus govern ourselves. How are we to do this without stepping on each other's toes? At which points do we meet so that individual freedom is maximised, although not absolute, and what is the proper role of government?

3. If reasoned correctly, the proper role of govt. is limited to the sphere of the Rule Of Law -- i.e. to ensure that individual freedom is maximised, the govt is there to prevent individuals from over extending those freedoms so that other parties -- who are also entitled to freedom -- are harmed. i.e. Goverments are formed to PROTECT the individuals self-ownership, individual freedom (expressed collectively as Civil Liberties) and rights to private property.

4. The govt istself is subject to The Rule Of Law: its functions are clearly defined and LIMITED to specific funtions by the "highest law", usually called The Constitution. Everyone is subject to the constitution, and it is everyones job to ensure the constitution is observed.


The points where Constitution Republcan Governance fails

1. Government fails when it succeeds in placing itself ABOVE the Rule Of Law, and are thus no longer subject to it.

2. The Rule of Law is usurped and seized and now becomes Rule By Men -- select group of individuals who are above the law, control the law and are above the people

3. The other 3 social compacts (fundamental rights) are summarily usurped, corrupted and control seized:

i. Self Ownership
ii. Individual Freedom
iii. Private Property

4. Game over. Highly centralised POLITICAL POWER -- the expression of power exerted by a select group -- has trumped SOCIAL POWER -- the collective expression of fundamental rights.

Anonymous said...

"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", unquote.

Maybe Kanagasabai was diplomatic in his writing not to mention that Singapore Leaders were/are not wanted in the International Arena and therefore have no chance of making money from doing lectures.

In any case the human weaknesses of greed and selfishness can never be satisfied by any/whatever amount of wealth. If they have enough for themselves, they will want more wealths for their next one hundred generations.


Anonymous said...

Singapore leaders, apart from the immortal one, cannot go on the lecture circuit. The reason is obvious. The Aura of being supremely talented is busted like a pricked balloon.

But why bother when they are guaranteed seats on the board of so many GLCs, NGOs, etc after retirement. This is the kind of circuit that is practically reserved for them and together with the lucrative pension scheme, they can live like the immortals in heaven.

OKL said...

one of the issues that worries me quite alot is this, "If price is our only way of securing loyalty, then we can always be outbidded."

i dont claim to understand everything, but i know a little of the precarious situation of the ASEAN geo-political realities; the emergency in the 60s is a real example of how things can very quickly turn sour... i also have a bad feeling that complacency might have set into both the govt and the people, especially after 4 decades of near non-stop growth and 5 decades in power... after all, the Soviets lasted 7 decades and it took them less than half a decade to collapse.

my sense is that if we start believing our own bullshit that we sell to other countries to attract investments, we could end up with mistaking or misunderstanding the realities of the region and as a result, believe that we have "arrived" on the world scene and start thinking like the Europeans, absorbing their ideology for ours.

A man who has ideals, but is poor is a dreamer, not an idealist; a man who is rich, but has no ideals is materialistic, not realistic.

that's my opinion and you are free to hammer it all you want; but i get the sense that there is a lack of a binding ideology behind all the wealth that we have... i don't know if this is true, if it is even possible to know... but i know that materialism can very easily be charaded as pragmatism.

i guess the biggest question is; all these wealth that we have- for what? without a binding purpose, complacency, dissent, disillusionment can very easily creep in... after all, "discouragement is the devil's best tool".

chandran said...

when you have left the voters begging for a better life , when you enjoy a better meal , when you live in a better house , when you have all the better things than your voters you are already corrupt in the way of truth... equlity is lost.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

Hi Chandran, Welcome to the blog.

It is all a matter of interpretation and definition. If a believer is told that poison is nectar and believes in it. Then poison is nectar.

It is declared that Singapore is corruption free. So be it.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am an outsider and have been to Singapore a few times. Singapore of the past was a haven of honesty. You could travel anywhere, shop anywhere and have a great time because you got to experience the values you cherished but could never have elsewhere. Well, that has definitely changed. Travel and taxis are still same but shopping has taken a nosedive. Many places have the cheesy rip off of a shanghai flea market. After getting ripped of at lucky mall in buying camera lens I asked a friend to suggest a honest place to buy camera accessories. I was told to go to Funan. I went there to capture photo and bought a camera bag and was told that I get an old Kodak camera I did not want as a gift. I realised later that I had been ripped off again and the bag and useless camera have both been biilled to me. I have stopped shopping to enjoy this beautiful city. I will shop in dubai where honest Singapore of past is still alive.

It is sad that a city that a great man built from scratch solely based on values through sheer will and hardwork cannot retain its greatness.