Lee Kuan Yew is quoted less often since he ceased to be Singapore’s Minister Mentor after the parliamentary elections in May last year when the opposition won six seats for the first time. But he can still speak and write with such authority. I read his letter on ministers’ salaries which appeared in Today newspaper. Those who claim Singapore ministers are overpaid – Lee Kuan Yew’s son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will be paid S$2.2 million ($1.7 million) a year and new ministers S$1.1 million after pay cuts – may not agree with the former Minister Mentor. But Lee Kuan is certainly right when he says:
We did not get Singapore from the Third to the First World by head-hunting ministers willing to sacrifice their children’s future when undertaking a public service duty. We took a pragmatic course that does not require people of calibre to give up too much for the public good. We must not reduce Singapore to another ordinary country in the Third World by dodging the issue of competitive ministerial remuneration.
Opinions may differ on pay scales, but no one wants Singapore to be “reduced” to “another ordinary country in the Third World”. Singapore is exceptional thanks to leaders like Lee Kuan Yew and his handpicked successors and the people themselves.
I have read what Manu Bhaskaran and others from the Institute of Policy Studies and the Lee Kuan School of Public Policy have to say in their background paper on Inequality and the Need for a New Social Compact. The reforms they urge to reduce the income gap and ensure greater social mobility will bring Singaporeans closer together, they say. According to them, Singapore needs new initiatives as the population is ageing and the world has changed since the current policies were introduced.