I am not a rich man – Everything I make is reinvested in the company

I remember my Dad and I once had a discussion about money. I was still at school and he wasn’t happy with how I was spending things. He made the point that despite the good things we had around us, he was not a rich man with infinite resources. Everything he had was reinvested into his business.

This conversation summed up the importance of money. While money is not everything, it plays a vital part in most of what we do. Money is not the root of all evil – it is the root of most things and business people, including the ones that are doing well, will always remind you that whatever surplus they earn has to be invested back into the business. Hans Hofer, the founder of Apa Guides once said that he only made money from his business when he sold his business and did other things.

I remembered these conversations and as I started freelancing in an industry where people are expected to work for foreign multinationals, I learnt two valuable lessons. The first lesson was the fact that money is power. The guys with the money will inevitably squeeze those without. The guy who has the advantage in a business negotiation is inevitably the guy with money in the bank. It is, as they say, easier to tell someone to f** off when you have enough money to worry about not having that job or project.

The second lesson I learnt was that there was a clear difference in attitudes towards money between those working for someone else and those who were employed. Big ticket items like posh meals, fancy wines, swanky hotel rooms and business class tickets were inevitably bought by those on expense accounts. The self-employed, including the successful ones, tended to be a little more conservative with their spending. It is inevitably easier to spend someone else’s money.

These lessons I took from the world of business seem to apply to electoral politics. The winner of any given election is inevitably the party that has the resources to spend. American elections are particularly well known for this. Candidates need to raise hundreds of millions to get past the finish line.

It isn’t much different in the Westminster System, where its often said that elections are lost by governments rather than won by opposition parties. Singapore’s government, for example is pretty good at dishing out goodies before an election.

It has also has been particularly good at buying over potential opponents. Our scholarship system is designed to bring bright and potential trouble makers onside. Two of our more prominent ministers (Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Vivian Balakrishnan) are examples of two bright sparks, who had

However, Singapore’s ruling party has run into a few challenges recently. The first one is the fact that potential opponents in the opposition are increasingly financially independent like former Worker’s Party Member of Parliament, Chen Show Mao, who was a partner at David Polk & Wardwell, a law firm with over a billion in revenue. Telling someone they can afford a condominium in a few years of working for you just doesn’t quite have the same effect on a man who is already living in a condominium.

The second challenge comes from an attitude towards resources. At the end of the recent election, the Prime Minister announced that Mr. Pritam Singh, leader of the Worker’s Party would be given the title “Leader of the Opposition,” which would be recognized office in the apparatus of the state which comes with a salary and staff.

This is office is found in other Commonwealth Jurisdictions like the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and India. However, in the Singapore context this was revolutionary in the sense that it was official recognition of “opposition” parties as a legitimate force. The cynics also argued that it was a sign of taming the Worker’s Party with an effective bribe.

However, Mr. Singh threw a wrench into the works by donating half of his salary increase. This announcement instantly brought him into the cross hairs of one of the ruling party’s most prominent trolls, Mr. Calvin Cheng, who complained that the Prime Minister’s donations didn’t get the good press that Mr. Singh’s was getting: [LINK]

To make matters worse, Ms. Ho Ching, the Prime Minister’s wife, CEO of Temasek Holdings (Singapore’s Family Office), and the only person whose salary is a state secret joined in the fray: [LINK]

Mr. Singh has clarified that he wasn’t giving away half his salary but half his salary increase: [LINK]

Why are people associated with the ruling party getting upset by Mr. Singh’s donation? The obvious point would be that it doesn’t make them look good. The act of forgoing the salary increase (which is considerably less than the lowest paid political office holder) has started what the Malay Mail described as a potential charity war and made Mr. Singh look better than the ruling party office holders: [LINK]

The less noticed and talked about point is that Mr. Singh probably had no choice in donating his new salary increase. If you look carefully at what Mr. Singh has said he would donate to, you’d note that it is primarily towards grassroots causes in the areas that his party controls.

The Worker’s Party is playing a long-term game. Strategy is simple – win seats, keep taking care of constituents to stay elected and then challenge for seats when you have enough strength. Unfortunately for Mr. Singh, his options of executing that strategy are particularly limited in as much as the main source of funding comes from the government, which is controlled by the ruling party, which unashamedly works on the principle of delaying funding to wards that it does not control.

Hence, Mr. Singh has to find different ways of funding the programs that his constituents need. The donation of his salary increase can be seen in the same light as a small shop keeper investing a windfall back into the business.

It’s different for the ruling party in as much as it controls official purse strings. Ruling party members of parliament (MPs) can afford to behave like executives on a generous expense account because getting the money is simply a question of following official rules on accountability.

Someone who comes from a position where he does not have to find ways and means of creating a budget will not be able to understand the motives of someone who is operating in a system where he or she has to get creative about raising the money.

While it will be sometime before the Worker’s Party will be in a position to fight for the government, the lack of resources is inevitably good for it. Its MPs will be trained to think of their wards like microenterprises with limited resources. This mindset will produce people who should be able to come up with creative solutions to the more complex problems of the modern age.

Hopefully, a stronger opposition will also help improve efficiency in the government. One can only hope that the increase in dissenting voices will get ruling party MP’s to think more creatively in order to get things past parliament. In business, big conglomerates like General Electric have started to work on the principle that they need to behave like smaller enterprises. Hopefully the same will happen in politics.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

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11 Responses to “I am not a rich man – Everything I make is reinvested in the company”

  • Taiwan Big Corruption:

    Hello Tang Li,
    Be reminded that if you do not pay out of this world salaries for all our PAP ministers and MPs, they will corrupt.

    Everyone has a price, so Taiwanese said.

    SOGO行賄案…又爆陽明山開發弊案!白手套是同一人20200731
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjHWpX3vt9E

    立院收賄醜聞全民公憤? 少康戰情室 20200804
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnWd8ffQwrU

    Now where is Roy boy who praise so highly of Democratic Progressive Party of President Tsai ?

    Hard Truth :
    Hong Kee Nurse : Money too little, Not worth sacrificing for Hong Kong
    Watch : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvZ5C1WrH0E

    You want best and good quality person to step forward to volunteer for the nation, you better pay higher salary.

    Otherwise, Singaporeans will be like the above Hong Kee nurse, money too little so not work sacrificing and no one will step forward. Worst, they get corrupted like Taiwan DPP MPs.

    You want quality iphone, you pay more and buy Apple(PAP).
    You want poor quality Hiphone, you pay less and buy from PRC.
    Watch : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzYGQuzhR2c

    I believe the answer is clear.

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.Again
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Lazy Singaporeans must be Cheaper, Better, Faster

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  • The Young one:

    After years of boycotting National Day, this time round, with the opposition making inroads in the GE, I’m beginning to think I should not boycott it this year.

    But I’ll not watch the parade on TV.

    Hard to watch the white hypocrites pledging to build a democratic society, still building after 55 years! Hypocrites!

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  • xoxo:

    No worries.
    $plashing in a flash a $100 BILLION IS PEANUTS.
    But helping our jobless n retirees is FORBIDDEN expense as it would burden the young in future?

    Hsk says if need be,he would loot more billions?

    And then,the EP is ERECTED so cannot ask questions?

    Nevr mind,we will just COLLECT MORE MONEY from the poor n jobless who receive $600 ?

    Hahaha! Sgs are daft as sheep.
    So easy to CON.

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  • Tracey Ching:

    Talking about money and budgeting and have and have nots, marrying a foreign Asiatic woman is cheaper but can be dangerous and deadly. Cases such as murder-suicides and sentenced to death for strangling China stepdaughter.

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  • Boh Kia See:

    While everybody is congratulating Pritam Singh for his “promotion”, I would like to say that the position of Leader of the Opposition, should be enshrined in the Constitution.

    It is not for the Clown PM or the PAP to dolly out increase pay like it is from their own wallet. It is the taxpayers funds, not the PAP’s funds. So it should be written into the Constitution.

    As it is, the PAP is still the paymaster of the Leader of the Opposition, so how can there be any independence. You have this conflict of interest immediately. That is what the PAP is good at doing.

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  • PAP.GUARANTEE.FLOP.NEXTGE:

    Dare not claim PAP guarantee win all anymore? Embarrassed yourself, did ya?

    Taiwan Big Corruption:
    Hello Tang Li,
    Be reminded that if you do not pay out of this world salaries for all our PAP ministers and MPs, they will corrupt.

    Everyone has a price, so Taiwanese said.

    SOGO行賄案…又爆陽明山開發弊案!白手套是同一人20200731
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QjHWpX3vt9E

    立院收賄醜聞全民公憤? 少康戰情室 20200804
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnWd8ffQwrU

    Now where is Roy boy who praise so highly of Democratic Progressive Party of President Tsai ?

    Hard Truth :
    Hong Kee Nurse : Money too little, Not worth sacrificing for Hong Kong
    Watch : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvZ5C1WrH0E

    You want best and good quality person to step forward to volunteer for the nation, you better pay higher salary.

    Otherwise, Singaporeans will be like the above Hong Kee nurse, money too little so not work sacrificing and no one will step forward. Worst, they get corrupted like Taiwan DPP MPs.

    You want quality iphone, you pay more and buy Apple(PAP).
    You want poor quality Hiphone, you pay less and buy from PRC.
    Watch : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzYGQuzhR2c

    I believe the answer is clear.

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.Again
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Lazy Singaporeans must be Cheaper, Better, Faster

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Ali & Pappy patronizing again:

    (RE: While it will be sometime before the Worker’s Party will be in a position to fight for the government, the lack of resources is inevitably good for it. Its MPs will be trained to think of their wards like microenterprises with limited resources. This mindset will produce people who should be able to come up with creative solutions to the more complex problems of the modern age.)

    Nowhere does the writer mention the abject immorality of Pappy’s iron-claw control of the grassroots funding…

    The writer seems to have missed or ignored the larger point on how the appointment of losing PAP candidates as P.A. Grassroots Advisers compromises our democracy.

    It is no secret that losing PAP election candidates remain as Grassroots Advisers who do not just hold sway over taxpayer dollars for upgrading. Their real power and influence is far more fundamental, and political. In fact, it teases and corrupts the substance of what it means to have “free and fair elections”.

    Stop talking down at good intelligent people you hard-core corrupted crony-capitalists!

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  • EducatedIdiots:

    You can write tons of books and impress your followers with your cleverness but your tons of words can never challenge nor alter the simplest and leanest formation of words, in just one short sentence…the love of money is the root of all evil.

    You can counter the short utterance with the most proliferate and scholarly argument from your best and yet no match for those few words.

    If you eat of the fruits of the knowledge of good and evil, you die – short and to the point yet deeply profound if you understand

    Those few words are enough to light up the emtire world, if you understand.But if you don’t, you will turn to the vast library of man written since the beginning of civilisation and will still not be able to understand.

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  • TUMASIK Patriot:

    Good one Tangfastic…stay FOCUS on local and NOT foreign news where the better MINDS are…”Peter’s Principle”..in the land of the Blind the One Eye man is KING!!!

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  • xoxo:

    A REAL OPPO LEADER HAS TO BE ONE ANOINTED BY OPPO SGS,NOT ERECTED BY THE INCUMBENT$?

    WP says THEY DO NOT OPPOSE FOR OPPOSITION’S SAKE.
    So,CAN WE SAY WP shud not accept erection of OPPO LEEder for OPPO LEEder’s sake?

    WP SHUD GATHER ALL GOOD OPPO SGS AND FORM A DECENTLY STRONG N EFFECTUAL OPPO ALLIANCE FIRST AND FOREMOST.
    THEN,LET THE ALLIANCE *ELECT* THE OPPO LEAder?

    This is my sincerest opinion.

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  • Opposition time:

    Opposition should do its utmost to do its job well in Parliament.
    WP and PSP should work together on this.
    Use their combined resources wisely .
    Actually quality does not comes from numbers.Even one with good idea is better than many .Thats why sometime startup solution can do a better job than old traditional Giant .
    Hope more talented people will give their ideas and support to help LO to do a better job in Parliament where it really matters.
    No excuse for failure.Don’t waste time on distraction or showmanship.

    GD Star Rating
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