Don’t give me that puzzled look can? I was thinking of another title, ‘The temptation of Jesus Christ’, but that may be too religious an approach. There are many reasons why Sinkies need to stand up to protect the ministers. And there are many known and good reasons to do so. We were told that they are the crème ala crème of the super talents on this piece of rock. This must be a good enough reason for many Sinkies. Many also believe that they are the best people to run this country. Without them, the economy is going to go downhill, prices of properties will collapse, many would become foreign workers. There will be a flight of capital and investments and we will slide back to the Third World. Our reserves and CPF savings will become banana currency. We don’t want that to happen.
There is a more basic reason to want to protect the ministers. The most fundamental assumption of the Ministerial Salary Review Committee is that the ministers are also humans. This rude revelation is a big departure from the assumption that they are immortals. Good that the Committee set this record straight for once. This assumption is also similar to the fear that they will succumb to temptation to be corrupt. Looking at them as humans, understanding the weaknesses of human weaknesses is half the battle won. There is no need to pretend that they are immortals and above the weaknesses of human beans. As humans they are subject to the same temptations of the flesh, of greed, of corruption, and the endless desires and wants.
This is what I mean when I say we need to protect the ministers as they are human beans too. Monday, Parliament is going to debate the salary recommendations of the Review Committee. And it is likely that they are going to vote for or against it. With 81 MPs and the Whip in force, the recommendations will be passed. This is bad. The recommendations are full of treacherous loopholes and traps that will compromise and bring down the good ministers.
I hope that they will be wise enough to look for a clean and simple package that will protect them from the temptations of man, of being human. I hope they will come out with a simple recommendation, a new recommendation that will remove all the loopholes and trappings that will lead the ministers to their downfall. It is unfair to design a system that is flawed and inviting the beneficiaries to think crooked. The new recommendations on the table are not much different from the current package, with many variables and flexibilities and loopholes for wrongdoings. If the ministers are put in a situation where they can be selective in what they are doing, say by doing this or that they could improve their bonuses etc, being human and weak, they could be lured into those erroneous paths.
There is no need to throw away the whole recommendations in toto. The recommendations have provided a decent framework as to how much the ministers can hope to get as their salary. Just compute them into simple numbers like $1.1m which is the base and $10m which is the maximum. With these two extremes, add a couple of options like $3m and $5m. Remove all the other variables and measurement criteria. Just put the four numbers to vote and let them be the salary of the ministers.
Once this is done, the ministers will be released from all the distraction of money, money will no longer be their daily preoccupation. An added precaution is that there shall be no other incomes by virtue of other appointments or duties. They can take on whatever duties or appointments if they so desired, but no more money, not even a token allowance. No more creative appointments as well. This will then be the simplest and cleanest and most transparent package for the ministers, and to protect them from themselves, to free them from temptations, and from thinking crooked. I want to say no crooked bridges as well, but that would be too complex to deal with.
May the main task of Parliament next week be towards a revised and simple salary package for the ministers. This is the best that everyone can hope for, for country, for the ministers and for the people. The police or uniformed personnel can do whatever to protect the ministers, but the most difficult task is for the ministers to protect from themselves. The people need to do their part to assist the ministers by proposing a simple compensation package that is free from mischief and temptation. This is a responsible thing to do. It is a simple task but very daunting. And it would need very brave and righteous ministers to agree with such a proposal. Just tell them it is for their own good and their own protection. Think they will understand the simple logic behind the proposal and assumption.
May God bless them and give them wisdom in this very difficult moment of their lives. Boon Wan is the best person to help to enlighten the rest of the ministers, to see light in times of darkness.