After 53 years of nation building, it is bloody tragic if our leaders have to be paid well for them not to be corrupt

I have argued consistently that the leaders of a country should be well-paid and Singapore gets it right, albeit for different reasons that the Government gives.

However, I think that the debate on Ministerial salaries will never end as long as outdated justifications keep getting trotted out.

Firstly, paying high salaries to prevent corruption may have been a good reason 20 to 30 years ago when we were a developing country. But if after 53 years of nation building and education , and as a developed nation, if our leaders have to be paid well in order for them not to be corrupt, it is bloody tragic. The leaders of other developed countries are paid less than Singapore leaders but are not any less incorruptible.

Secondly, paying high to attract talent from the private sector and/or prevent government talent from leaving is also highly doubtful. There is a Chinese saying 隔行如隔山. A different profession is like a different mountain. It means that each profession takes time to master, and a superstar highly paid lawyer may not make a superstar government minister.

And vice versa – a superstar career technocrat may not succeed in the private sector. In fact, some of the best paid professionals on Shenton Way are traders who make millions of dollars, but I am pretty sure their skills are not transferable to governance.

Also, a good trader is paid more than a bad trader, a good lawyer is paid more than a bad lawyer, but that doesn’t mean that the trader is mediocre compared to the lawyer – some professions are just paid more than others.

Which brings me to why I think leaders should be paid well. I think that Governance is an expertise in itself and I am of the school of thought that technocrats should run a country.

I do not subscribe to the whole ‘servant’ and ‘sacrifice’ rhetoric – these are things leaders all over the world say to be popular. After the end of absolute monarchies as a system of government, who wants to be lorded over by arrogant leaders? So the whole ‘humility’ “I am your servant” rhetoric is served by elected leaders all over.

In truth, I don’t need to be served. I don’t need leaders to make a ‘sacrifice’. Just run the country well – make sure that people have jobs, healthcare, education, good infrastructure and are happy. It is the most important job in the every country and thus should be the most highly paid.

But in a democracy, the people reserve the right to sack them every few years, and it should also be the most insecure job. The people must be brave enough to vote a Minister out if he is not doing his job every 5 years.

Finally, what about other developed countries? They seem to be doing well even though their leaders are paid much less.

In other rich, developed countries, elected leaders are either 1) already rich people going for power or 2) career politicians. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but in general I think in developed democracies, power is diffused and things work in spite of the government instead of because of it.

I would rather we pay more, make sure we elect the best technocrats to run the country instead of hoping for a benign rich person, or a capable career hack.

But stop saying that it is to prevent corruption, or to attract high-paying professionals from the private sector, or prevent ministers from leaving for the private sector.

The people know it is BS and the more you say it, the more the issue of high ministerial pay will never go away. Just be upfront: it is the most important job in the country, let’s pay them very well, but every 5 years if they don’t perform well, sack them.


*Facebook post by Calvin Cheng.



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9 Responses to “After 53 years of nation building, it is bloody tragic if our leaders have to be paid well for them not to be corrupt”

  • HarderTruths:


    Regrettably you can have all the reasons you want, with all the facts and morals.

    Unfortunately they have the corrupt 70% voting for them.

    That is the only thing that matters, so don’t waste your breath,

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  • Titiana Ann Xavier:

    Paying ministers exorbitant salaries is engrained in the Singapore political system. The day the PAP government dares to reduce their high salaries is akin to committing hara-kiri. So it’s tyranny of the status quo. The PAP government’s mercenary approach to recruiting ‘high calibre’ politicians is flawed. When more and more Singaporeans lose their jobs to cheap foreigners, the tolerant level of voters towards millionaire ministers will decrease. That day is not too far off.

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  • clown pap PA paid IBs:

    why so long winded.

    clown pap ain’t going to change.

    the easiest for true improvement in Singapore is regime change.

    just vote out clown pap and S$m gang and install a team of investigators to look into their abuse of power for S$m.

    trace the money. since NOT a single clown pap and S$m gang is doing anything for free, but for S$m, tracing money since nab them nicely.

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    Calvin “I would rather we pay more, make sure we elect the best technocrats to run the country instead of hoping for a benign rich person, or a capable career hack.”

    Yes, yes, yes Calvin.

    We should pay our politician well otherwise they will corrupt like Najib.

    You pay peanut, you get monkey with corrupted leader like Najib.

    Read One big family of crooks Najib.

    This is how Najib and family squandered away the country reserve.

    Goh Chok Tong had already said if ministers are not paid enough, very, very mediocre people earning less than $500K will be our ministers.

    Please Calvin, start a campaign to garner support for 9% GST increase so that our ministers will be paid enough and go to France for 6 days French cooking course.

    What can Opposition do for you?

    Opposition like to promise many things but cannot deliver.

    Look at Dr M, cannot deliver at all.

    PETALING JAYA: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad says Pakatan Harapan (PH) is having a hard time fulfilling its election pledges as it made “too many promises”, believing it would not win the May 9 polls.

    PAP Huat ah…. Singaporeans Support 9% GST to pay for more ministers salaries because ministers are not paid enough

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  • Malaysia boleh Singapore bodoh:

    “Let’s pay them very well, but every 5 years if they don’t perform well, sack them.”

    Sack them? Really? How will Singaporeans know how they perform when there is no openness and transparency in the public sector? Also, PAP does not tell the public how the performance of ministers is measured.

    The only viable forward for Singapore is REGIME CHANGE to make Singapore a FUNCTIONING democracy with openness and transparency in the public sector and therefore REAL accountability.

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  • LIONS:

    Pay them very,very well?
    This idiot thinks the daft Pig$ are not paid enuf?

    Well,let them go n EARN as much as they could in the REAL world.

    We can let others take over.
    No one is forcing them to take this VERY,VERY POORLY PAID JOB ya?

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  • Rabble-rouser:

    No wonder S’pore is going to the dogs! What expertise? Governance has no specific economic value in the real world. Look at all the past US Presidents – the best they can do after their term ended were to go on the lecture & seminar circuit to earn speaking fees. Did anyone joined the corporate sector as an executive or even as a CEO? You have your answer there.
    In a disruptive world today, technocrats are an obsolete species. Things are changing way too fast for technocrats to comprehend. Leave the Economy to the experts. Politics & govts are about
    * solving income inequality & disparity;
    * providing social services & goods,
    * providing essentials & an affordable cost of living; &
    * breaking down class structures with education & equal opportunities.
    It is interesting to see how twisted the logic are in the minds of sycopants like Calvin Cheng.
    The value of a politician is considerably less than one who has to engage in economic & productive activities. High pay for PAP Politicians will lead S’pore to ruin because it will be at the expense of the economy. No country has overcome the laws of nature between politics & economic management. High pay is reserved for the latter while the former do it for national duty, not money. If money is a criteria, then join the corporate sector, don’t serve in the govt. The late LKY created many situations that were perversed to natural laws re: Central-planned economy, a technocratic culture, & a political reward mechanism which retards national interests & promote social injustices – protect vested interest & GLCs over the public.

    Calvin Cheng: I think that Governance is an expertise in itself and I am of the school of thought that technocrats should run a country.

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  • Konglanway:

    But there are already so many GLARING and BIG and DISASTEROUS failures despite paying them so exceedingly well. Where are the justifications?
    We even have one BIG minister who misuse parliament to settle own personal affairs with his siblings. WHAT A BIG BIG shame!!!

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  • Don't Vote for Them!:

    If you think they don’t deserve the pay, then don’t vote for them.

    It is as simple as that!

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