20 December 2012

Working in People's Association

People’s Association is a statutory board with a history of more than half a century.  It was established to promote racial harmony and social cohesion in Singapore.  Its mission is to build and bridge communities in achieving one people, one Singapore.

PA offers a wide range of programmes to cater to Singaporeans from all walks of life, connecting people to people, and people and government.   It has a network of 1,800 grassroots organisations, over 100 Community Clubs, five Community Development Councils, National Youth Council, National Community Leadership Institute, Outward Bound Singapore and Water-Venture.

People's Association Act stipulates that PA's chairman shall be the prime minister and its deputy chairman shall be a cabinet minister appointed by him (currently, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say).

PA seems to be a place for the ambitious.

16 December 2012

Infidelity — A Grave Mistake

Like many people, I wondered whether leaders should or needed to have resigned their office after their extramarital affairs were exposed last month.

Isn't being faithful to an individual's wife a personal matter between the couple?

An individual should remain faithful to his wife.  Period.

In a monogamous society, an individual promises, whether expressly or implicitly, to be faithful to his wife for as long as they live.  If being faithful to his wife throughout their marriage is not a commitment that an individual is prepared to make, he should tell his wife before they exchange marriage vows.  If, however, both parties have committed to being faithful throughout their marriage, what makes him even think that his wife will allow him to renege on his promise?

An unfaithful individual can easily justify infidelity to himself, creating stories about why it is all right or even desirable (from his perspective) to behave that way.  But he is only deceiving himself because it is never all right.

An individual involved in an extramarital affair has divided loyalties between his wife and his extramarital partner.  It affects his relationship with his wife even if she never finds out about it.  It hurts his spouse and children grievously when they find out.  If only he had given pause to imagine the pain he would feel if his wife had cheated on him instead.  But unfaithful individuals seldom do.

Infidelity shows a lack of morals and ethics, a lack of self discipline, and a lack not just of common sense but of good sense.

Infidelity is dishonesty, a character defect.

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Note

This article was written using the male pronoun, but it applies equally to wives who are engaged in extramarital affairs.

21 November 2012

Anonymous Academic Excellence

The Ministry of Education and Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board will no longer disclose the names of the top students at the Primary School Leaving Examinations and the O level examinations.

The move was taken in line with the importance of recognising students for their holistic development and all-round excellence, and to balance the over-emphasis on academic results.

11 November 2012

Parliament: Why Quorum Is Important But Not Enough

On 16 October 2012, Parliament met at 1:30 p.m. and the sitting continued until 3:44 p.m. when it was suspended by the Speaker.  When the sitting resumed as scheduled at 4:05 p.m., a (Nominated) Member asked the Speaker to confirm, as a point of order, that there was a quorum in the Chamber even though he (the Member) believed that a quorum would be achieved in due course.

A count was duly made at 4:07 p.m., and it showed that there were only 11 MPs present.

The Constitution prescribes the quorum of the House to be one-quarter of the total number of Members, excluding the Speaker (or the MP presiding in his absence).  The current Parliament has 99 Members, including Non-Constituency Members and Nominated Members.

86 Members, excluding the Speaker, were present when the House met at 1:30 p.m.

04 November 2012

Labour Force to Grow 1.5 to 2 Per Cent?

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say warned on Thursday that Singapore's jobs would grow 2 per cent or less per annum in the coming years.

He attributed this to the Government's tightening of foreign labour inflow and the weak global demand for goods and services.

The following day, Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said job growth could moderate to 1.5 to 2 per cent.

The labour force in September 2012 was 3.31 million.  1.5 per cent is about 50,000 people and 2 per cent is about 66,000 people.

What are the implications?

21 October 2012

Population — Why Stop At 6.5 Million?

In February 2007, we learnt that the Government was laying the groundwork for a population of 6.5 million, a target that could be reached within 20 years.  We were told that the Government wasn't aiming for 6.5 million, but that number was a planning parameter which would form the basis of Singapore's development plans for housing, recreation and land transport.
 
The population then was 4.4 million (June 2006), comprising 3.1 million citizens, 0.4 million permanent residents (i.e., foreign nationals who have been granted the privilege of long-term stay in Singapore with quasi-citizenship benefits) and 0.9 million non-residents.  That is, 70.6 per cent citizens, or roughly 7 citizens to 3 foreigners.

The previous planning parameter of 5.5 million, set out in Concept Plan 2001, was already in danger of being exceeded.  It was supposed to be a planning parameter, not a target.

Then-Minister for National Development Mah Bow Tan said that it was crucial to plan and invest for the future.  Otherwise, precious business opportunities would be lost if potential investors found insufficient land and infrastructure for their needs.  Nevertheless, he tried to assure us that Singapore would not be bursting at the seams.

14 October 2012

Calibrating Immigration and Foreign Worker Inflow — What Does It Really Mean?

It seems increasingly fashionable nowadays to use the word "calibrate".

Here's a recent example.

We must complement our resident workforce with a calibrated rate of immigration and foreign worker inflow, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry in its paper MTI Occasional Paper on Population and Economy (September 2012).

What does the Government mean by a calibrated rate of immigration and foreign worker inflow?

What does the public think the Government means?

30 September 2012

National Conversation: Listen More, Talk Less

Singapore's National Conversation 2012 was introduced during the National Day Rally Speeches of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister for Education Heng Swee Keat on 26 August 2012.

A National Conversation on "Our Singapore" is needed to define what sort of country Singaporeans want and how it can be achieved, because Singaporeans have diverse needs and wants.

Haven't Singaporeans been having conversations among themselves and with the Government?

23 September 2012

No Ranking, No Banding, No PSLE?

The Ministry of Education will abolish the academic banding of schools this year.

Banding or grouping of secondary schools according to their average O-level scores into nine broad bands was introduced in 2004.

But ranking of secondary schools started much earlier, in 1992.

03 September 2012

Aren't Moderators Supposed to be Neutral?

The topic on MediaCorp's Channel News Asia Talking Point on 28 August 2012 was "Do PM Lee's Suggestions Encourage You to Have More Babies", referring to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's suggestions at the National Day Rally to raise Singapore women's total fertility rate.

A feature of the programme is the poll carried out during the one-hour broadcast.

At the beginning of the programme, the vote was 12.1 per cent "yes" and 87.9 per cent "no".

28 August 2012

Raising Future Tax Revenue from Personal Income Tax not GST

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last Sunday (26 August 2012) that as spending on social services increases, taxes would have to go up sooner or later within the next 20 years.

When Channel News Asia interviewed some tax practitioners, their response was that there was scope for the Goods and Services Tax rate to be increased or some other tax e.g., carbon tax to be introduced.

26 August 2012

Local R&D — Are We Getting Adequate Return on Investment?

Member of Parliament Lim Wee Kiak recently asked the Prime Minister in Parliament (a) whether the National Research Foundation had achieved its objectives; (b) the number of patents filed in Singapore; and (c) the measures that would be implemented to increase Singapore's creativity and knowledge-based output.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (on behalf of the Prime Minister) gave the following reply (in bold italics).


R&D efforts in Singapore have resulted in about 1,500 to 2000 patents being filed worldwide every year.

Firstly, Dr Lim could easily have found this answer in Economic Survey of Singapore 2011.

Secondly, the better question to ask is: what have been the number of patents awarded?
 

15 August 2012

How Proud Are Singaporeans of Singapore's Olympic Achievements?

Feng Tianwei, representing Singapore, won a bronze medal in the women's singles at the 2012 Olympics.

Ms Feng and two other China-born members of the women's table-tennis team later won the bronze medal.

Many Singaporeans are happy that the team won two bronze medals, just as fans of Manchester City FC were happy that the team won the Barclays Premier League title last season.

But, are Singaporeans proud of their achievements?

09 August 2012

Singapore Wins Two Olympic Medals But Do Citizens Care?

Many people in many countries would be delighted when one of their people wins an Olympic medal.

But when Feng Tianwei won a bronze medal in table tennis at the 2012 London Olympics, many Singaporeans reacted with indifference or negativity.

According to a poll by Yahoo! Sports, 77 per cent of the 17,227 respondents polled over three days said they would not be proud if a foreign import won an Olympic medal for Singapore.  It is not clear if the respondents had in mind Singapore's table tennis teams, which were almost entirely made up of China-born athletes, but they were the only athletes representing Singapore with any real chance of winning any medals.

Why?

After all, if winning an Olympic medal is sports excellence, it should strengthen national pride — a desired outcome of Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports.

02 August 2012

Low Wage Vocations in Singapore 2011

It has been estimated that there are about 400,000 workers in Singapore who earn $1,000 or less a month.

What are some of the low wage vocations?

The following table shows the common vocations with gross monthly wages of $1,300 and lower as at June 2010 and June 2011.

22 July 2012

Is "Singapore" Clipper Yacht Singaporean?

The local media announced that the Keppel Corporation-sponsored "Singapore" yacht completed Clipper 11-12 World Yacht Race in third position.

The organisers Clipper Ventures supplied the fleet of ten identical, 68-foot, stripped down racing yachts each sponsored by a city, a region or a country and a qualified skipper for each yacht.

The 40,000-mile race took 11 months to complete.  It was divided into eight legs comprising 15 individual races; crew members decide which legs they wish to race in.

The "Singapore" team comprised 52 crew from 11 nationalities, led by British skipper Ben Bowley.  Among them were seven Singaporeans; the rest were foreigners.

I'm puzzled.

What exactly is the achievement that the mainstream print and broadcast media are trumpeting?

With Singaporeans forming a very minuscule minority in the crew, to what extent can this be considered a Singapore effort or a Singapore yacht?

15 July 2012

Emirates Singapore Derby — The Media and Betting or Gambling

Channel News Asia broadcast live on national television today Emirates Singapore Derby, a horse racing event held at Singapore Turf Club.  There was a repeat broadcast several hours later.

MediaCorp (which owns Channel News Asia) described the broadcast in its programme listing as info / education.  Channel News Asia's website reported the results in its sports section.

Singapore Turf Club's website says "Think Entertainment, Think Racing".  Horse racing is fun, presumably even if a person is neither an owner nor a jockey.

Just over a month ago, Channel News Asia also broadcast live on national television Singapore Airlines International Cup, said to be the richest and most prestigious event in Singapore's horse racing calendar.  Singapore President Tony Tan presented the trophy.

No matter how some people or organisations try to portray it, isn't horse racing about betting or gambling?

MediaCorp's Gold 90.5 FM Radio broadcasts Toto results twice a week.  In this case, there aren't even any horses or greyhounds or any other animals racing.  It's simply a game of guessing six numbers out of 45 numbers to win.

Why are the media broadcasting or reporting betting or gambling results?

12 July 2012

Malaysia's Political Maturity: Repealing Sedition Act

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced yesterday that Malaysia would repeal its Sedition Act.

The 64-year-old law will be replaced by a National Harmony Act.

The Sedition Act criminalises seditious speech that provokes hatred between races, with punishments of up to three-year prison sentences.  Some people say that it has been used to stifle political dissent and as a means to restrict criticism of policies that protect the rights of the ethnic Malays.

The Sedition Act represents a bygone era in Malaysia, and its repeal and replacement will mark another step forward in Malaysia's development, according to Mr Najib.

The decision is being made to better balance ensuring citizens' freedom of expression and the need to handle the complex nature of Malaysia's multi-racial and multi-religious society.  It will help the country better manage its national fault lines and strengthen national cohesion by protecting national unity and nurturing religious harmony.

The Attorney-General will hold a full public consultation before the new legislation is drafted.

Mr Najib said that other changes were planned to shape a politically mature Malaysian society.

The Malaysian Government last year repealed the Internal Security Act, also a remnant from British colonial rule, which allowed indefinite detention without trial.  It was replaced by the Security Offences Bill, under which people will not be detained because of their political beliefs.

Now that Malaysia has led the way for a more mature democracy, will neighbouring Singapore with its multi-racial and multi-religious society follow suit and repeal its Internal Security Act and Sedition Act?

06 July 2012

NParks's Brompton Bicycles — A Path Less Travelled

Singapore's National Parks Board recently bought 26 Brompton foldable bicycles costing $2,200 each for its officers to use on patrols.

NParks's tender notice set out the following specifications for the bicycles —
— Be foldable.
— Can be brought onto public buses and MRT trains.
— Have 16-inch wheels.
— Weigh between 11 kg and 13 kg.
— Have at least 6 speeds.
— Be provided with one year's warranty and free basic servicing.

Only one company — apparently not the agent or an authorised dealer for Brompton bicycles — submitted a bid, listing two models, with the Brompton bicycles being the cheaper alternative.

According to NParks, it proceeded with the purchase since the proposal met its specifications and it found the price to be reasonable after comparing with market prices at that time.

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan said he accepted NParks's explanation.

This episode raises many questions, nevertheless.

02 July 2012

Budgeting for 2015 South-East Asian Games — Learning from 2010 Youth Olympic Games Budget Overrun

Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Chan Chun Sing assured the public yesterday that budget issues that affected Singapore's hosting of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games would not happen when Singapore hosted the 2015 South-East Asian Games.

The initial budget of $104 million for the Youth Olympics was exceeded threefold.

Mr Chan said that the 2015 South-East Asian Games steering committee would be keeping a very tight watch over the entire budget.

In any case, the South-East Asian Games will be quite different from the Youth Olympics.  Singapore had contractual obligations in the Youth Olympics but will have greater control on the choice of vendors and other matters in the South-East Asian Games.

Details of the 2015 South-East Asian Games are still being ironed out, including the budget, the number of sports and the Games Village.

Mr Chan's comments raises several issues.

30 June 2012

City Harvest Church Saga — Let's be Sensible and Humble

Following the announcements by Commissioner of Charities and Commercial Affairs Department that they would be taking action against senior pastor Kong Hee and several others from City Harvest Church, some people were quick to make sarcastic and vitriolic comments.

28 June 2012

Germany at the Centre of Europe

Two world wars were fought in the past century to stop Germany from conquering Europe.

By 1945, Germany was defeated.  The country was split into two — German Democratic Republic (also known as East Germany) and Federal Republic of Germany (also known as West Germany).  German Democratic Republic fell under the dominion of Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics.  A wall was erected between East Berlin and West Berlin to prevent people from the former from crossing over to the latter.

The Berlin Wall fell in November 1989.

German Democratic Republic and Federal Republic of Germany were reunited as Germany in October 1990 and a German national goal was achieved.

It appeared that France consented to German reunification provided Germany gave up the deutschemark in favour of a unified currency.  Germany had to give up monetary sovereignty in exchange for regaining territorial and political sovereignty.

The euro was born on 1 January 2000.

By 2008, the weaker economies in the euro-zone started to wobble.

By June 2012, the writing was on the wall.  Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain and Cyprus had asked for assistance.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that Europe needed not just a currency union.  Europe needed a fiscal union, with more common budget policies.  Above all, Europe needed a political union, which meant that individual European countries need to progressively give up more powers to Europe and allow Europe oversight possibilities.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called for a big leap forward in European integration that would see euro-zone countries building a banking, political and fiscal union that could include national budgets coming under the control of Brussels.

Germany, as the dominant economy in Europe, will no doubt call the shots.

20 May 2012

Unity and Reciprocity in Opposition Politics

The decision by everyone to let the Hougang by-election be contested by People's Action Party and The Workers' Party was a decision based on realism and practicality as much as an expression of unity.  Just 12 months ago in the general election, The Workers' Party won the contest there with 64.8 per cent of the valid vote.  It is inconceivable that any party other than The Workers' Party or perhaps People's Action Party will win the contest there this time.  Not only will a third party lose, but it will probably lose so badly that its election deposit of $13,500 will be forfeited.  Furthermore, if People's Action Party captures Hougang with less than half the valid vote, the third party will be a instant pariah to opposition supporters, unless it happens to receive more votes than The Workers' Party.

However, according to Mr Tan Jee Say, unity among opposition parties should not be a one-way street.  The Workers' Party should appreciate the gesture of political cooperation from other opposition parties and individuals and should reciprocate accordingly in the next general election — implying that The Workers' Party should not intrude into other opposition parties' territories.

This is short-sighted.  It will stymie the growth and development of the opposition.

16 May 2012

Hougang: A By-Election is a By-Election

Few viewers would have failed to notice Channel NewsAsia's repeated reference to the Hougang by-election being the result of The Workers' Party's expulsion of its then-Member of Parliament Yaw Shin Leong for alleged personal indiscretions.

Under section 46 (2) of The Constitution of Singapore Act, the seat of a Member of Parliament becomes vacant if he ceases to be a member of, or is expelled or resigns from, the political party for which he stood in the election.

The by-election is the result of the Hougang seat becoming vacant.

There is no need for Channel NewsAsia — supposedly MediaCorp's dedicated news and current affairs television channel — to repeatedly remind its viewers that Mr Yaw was expelled for alleged personal indiscretions.

14 May 2012

Foreign Audience Versus Home Audience

Broadcast rights to many sports events, including even highlights, are generally not available to major news agencies.

Nevertheless, limited access is sometimes given to free-to-air broadcasters, provided any broadcast is limited geographically.

This restriction means that MediaCorp's Channel NewsAsia cannot broadcast limited match highlights because of the transnational nature of its broadcasts.

Although viewers in Singapore can still watch match highlights on MediaCorp's other free-to-air channels, they cannot watch the highlights on Channel NewsAsia — MediaCorp's dedicated news and current affairs channel — because of its aspirations to be a regional broadcaster.

MediaCorp and Channel NewsAsia are headquartered in Singapore. MediaCorp started as a radio broadcaster in Singapore in 1936.  Channel NewsAsia started broadcasting in 1999.  MediaCorp is owned by Temasek Holdings.

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Notes

1. Cable TV Restrictions Limit Football Broadcast on Local News: CNA Voices, TODAY 9 May 2012.

01 May 2012

HDB Resale Flats — Valuation and Cash-Over-Valuation

In a recent article ("HDB Resale Prices Stabilise as COVs Fall", TODAY 28 Apr 2012), it was said that Housing and Development Board resale market was stabilising, with prices rising at their slowest pace in 5½ years as cash-over-valuation premiums fell.

Transacted prices and cash-over-valuation premiums: which is the cause and which is the effect?

The cash-over-valuation premium in any particular transaction is the transacted sale-and-purchase price in excess of the valuation of that HDB flat.  It must be paid for in cash, not from the buyer's Central Provident Fund account.

In a rising market, valuations typically trail transacted prices because of the way valuations are usually computed.  The faster the market is rising, the larger the cash-over-valuation premiums.

As the market stabilises, transacted prices stabilise.  This allows valuations to catch up with transacted prices, and results in cash-over-valuation premiums falling.

Falling cash-over-valuation premiums do not, in themselves, result in the market for HDB resale flats stabilising.

23 April 2012

What Total Fertility Rate Means

Total fertility rate is a concept used by politicians, statisticians and others when talking about population growth, especially when it is either excessive or inadequate.

But what exactly is TFR?

TFR is defined as the average number of children a hypothetical cohort of women would have at the end of their reproductive period if they were subject during their whole lives to the fertility rates of a given period and if they were not subject to mortality.  It is expressed as children per woman [see note 1 for the formula].

Several terms are key to understanding what TFR means and what it does not mean.

18 March 2012

Raising Government Revenue after 2016

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam told Parliament on 1 March 2012 that the Government would have to find new ways to raise revenues after 2016.

He did not say why he thought 2016 was likely to be a watershed year.  It appears the need for new sources of revenues will not arise before 2016.

13 March 2012

Budget 2012 — Memorable Quotes

Benefits for the not-so-wealthy
[I]n the last 5 years, the transfers we provided to the low-income group — net of the taxes that they pay, which is basically GST — amounted to [19 per cent] of their incomes.  This is a significant increase from the previous 5 years...  [O]ver a lifetime for a low-income household... for every dollar that the low-income household pays in taxes, they get back [$4.25] in [permanent] benefits.  A whole set of benefits add up to this — which includes Workfare, housing grants, and means-tested healthcare and education subsidies.
Tharman Shanmugaratnam (1 Mar 2012)

For the middle income family that owns a car... they get back about 80 cents [in lifetime permanent benefits] for every dollar in taxes paid.  Without car ownership, they could get back $1.50 in [lifetime permanent] benefits for every dollar in taxes paid.
Tharman Shanmugaratnam (1 Mar 2012)

Affordability of HDB flats
[O]ur enhanced housing grants for lower income families are such that a family with a monthly income of as low as $1,000 can now purchase a small flat.  98 per cent of our younger cohorts, those who are below 35, earn at least $1,000 of income a month.  A family that earns a bit more, say $1,500, can purchase a medium-sized flat.
Tharman Shanmugaratnam (1 Mar 2012)

01 March 2012

Budget 2012 — Concerns About Rising GST Voucher Expectations

Now that the GST Voucher scheme will be made permanent, some people — tax consultants, economists and academics, all of whom who are probably upper- and middle-income individuals — have expressed concerns that the GST Voucher recipients will expect more ("GST Voucher Seen as Better Than Exemption", The Business Times 28 February 2012).

The GST rate was increased in three steps from 3 per cent in 2003 to 7 per cent in 2007.

24 February 2012

Budget 2012 Analysis, Reflections and Disappointments

Summary

The Government significantly under-estimated corporate income tax in Budget 2011 and 2010.

The Government recognises, belatedly, that investment–grade gold is an actively traded financial asset like other financial instruments that are GST-exempt.

Is government funding for buses a good thing for the public transport operators?

The enhanced earned income relief benefits only one-third of the older economically active workers.

Special transfers to endowment funds and GST Voucher Fund overstate current expenditure.

Did the GST rate rise from 5 per cent to 7 per cent over the last decade?

Temporary GST offsets versus permanent reductions in income taxes.

The GST Voucher disadvantages those who fall between the cracks.

The GST rate can be reduced.

25 January 2012

Ministerial Salaries Review — Do Most Roads Lead to Rome?

Almost everyone has his own opinion on how to determine the salaries of political office holders, especially cabinet ministers.

Do most roads lead to Rome (figuratively not literally)?

20 January 2012

When Cash-Over-Valuation Analysis Is Inconclusive

Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan provided the following information on median cash-over-valuation ("COV", or cash premium over valuation, paid by the buyer to the seller) for transactions involving resale Housing and Development Board apartments in Q4 2011:








If Mr Khaw was trying to prove to the public that private property owners, rather than permanent residents, were pushing up the COV and resale prices, I think he failed.

First, COV is typically correlated to the transacted price, which in turn is typically a function of the size of the apartment (all other factors e.g., location, orientation, age, condition, etc. being the same).  This relationship may be seen from HDB's webpage (Median COV by Town and Flat Size).  What is relevant is the median ratio of COV-to-valuation for each buyer group.

Second, for each apartment size, the median COV varies from town to town.  For example, the median COV in Q3 2011 for 5-room HDB apartments ranged from $33,000 in Sembawang and Woodlands to $66,500 in Bishan.  Unless the distribution by buyer group for any apartment size in question is approximately uniform (or, the difference is not statistically significant) across all towns, the COVs attributed to the respective buyer groups have limited meaning.

Third, how many resale transactions were attributed to each buyer group?  If, for instance, the number of transactions by private property owners was small relative to the total, the COV attributed to them may have limited impact on median overall transacted prices.

Fourth, HDB last July stopped disclosing data on the median overall COV for all HDB resale transactions during each calendar quarter because the figures could be misleading.  If the median overall COV could be misleading, wouldn't the median overall COV for the five buyer groups be equally if not more misleading?

11 January 2012

Ministerial Salaries Review — Salaries for a Capable and Committed Government

This article examines some of the details in the report "Salaries for a Capable and Committed Government" dated 30 December 2011.

THE PROCESS

The Committee's view is that $1.10 million in 2010 would have been fair salary for a MR4 political office holder, placing him at the 1,400th highest income position.  Why $1.10 million?  Because the Committee thinks that salaries must be competitive — that competitive — to attract talented people to serve as political office holders.

It is arguable whether talented people — as determined by the salary they earn or indeed by most other measures — are the right political leaders for Singapore.

It is arguable whether people who need ministerial salaries much higher than those for a reasonably comfortable lifestyle to step forward to serve the country in political office are the right political leaders for Singapore.

Once the Committee decided not to benchmark ministerial salaries against the salaries of world leaders, the entire exercise became subjective.  Who was to say whether MR4 should be $1.1 million rather than $1.5 million or $0.5 million?  Moreover, it is arguable whether the Committee was in a position to determine what constituted the right political leadership for Singapore, and in this respect, the Committee probably used the incumbents as its target candidates.  Did the Committee tailor the proposed salaries to fit the incumbents?  [This paragraph was inserted on 13 January 2012.]