Have the ministerial pay hikes caused popular discontentment?


Read this carefully. It may help you answer some of the questions.

In April 2007, the Singapore government announced a salary revision for Ministers and civil servants in the government service. Since 1994, Ministers' and civil servants' salaries have been benchmarked against private sector earnings; they are set at two-thirds of the median pay of the top earners in the banking, law engineering and accountancy, as well as employees of multinational corporations and local manufactures. In this way, public sector salaries move up and down with the labour market. Ministers' wages were last raised in 2000, but were cut in 2001 and 2003 during the economic downturn, although the cuts have since been reversed.

Source A A report in the local newspaper on the debate of the ministerial pay
During the parliamentary debate on the pay hikes, some MPs pointed out that, “Just a month ago, the ministry overseeing the needs of the poor in Singapore has refused to heed some MPs' calls to increase aid to Public Assistance recipients* by "tens of dollars" more.”
* defined as those with no kin nor any means to support themselves due to age, illness or disability.

Source B Speech by Minister Teo Chee Hean, the head of the Civil Service

We know that financial rewards cannot and should not be the main motivation of those in the government service. There are many intrinsic rewards that come from working in the public sector. However, that does not mean that we do not need to pay them market-competitive salaries. We don't want pay to be the reason for people joining us. But we also don't want pay to be the reason for them not to join us, or to leave after joining us.
Competitive wages have helped us bring in and retain able men and women in government and in the Public Service in Singapore. This policy has served us well. We must maintain this competitive advantage - a clean, effective and efficient Public Service. We need a team of good people to develop the vision, ideas and plans, as well as to see through the execution.

Source C A Political commentary by prominent writer Catherine Lim

Political leadership is less a salaried job and more a vocation, with all that this implies of selflessness and sacrifice on the part of the leaders, a trust, respect and regard on the part of the people. The ultimate reward for the leaders is a revered place in the nation's history, in the hearts and minds of future generations.

Nevertheless, no Singaporean with any practical sense of real world would want to see a minister denied a salary commensurate with his status and dignity, or living less well than any prosperous Singaporean. But no Singaporean would expect a minster to feel disgruntled* if he is paid less than the top lawyer. If the disgruntlement actually causes him to leave his job, then he was not cut out for public office in the first place. Thus, to offer him a matching salary to enable him to stay would be to demean that office.

*Disgruntled: Discontented, unhappy or dissatisfied.

Source D Table published in the Wall Street Journal, July 2000
Source E Speech by Low Thia Kiang, an opposition Member of Parliament

We agree that civil servants should not be expected to make unreasonable financial sacrifices to be in the public sector. However, neither should they be seen being paid unreasonable wages for their contributions. Even in the private sector, no organization can afford to keep paying increasingly high wages just to retain and attract top performers since resources are inevitably limited. Moreover, in the case of public service, we need a different breed of people to come forward to serve; there is simply no point in offering high remuneration just to entice people to serve if what they are interested in is to make more and more money for himself and his family in pursuit of material interests in life.
How much they are paid is secondary. Pay them well, but don't let pay drive the search for leaders.


1a) Study Source A
Why do you think that the reporter expressed these views? Explain your answer. [5]

1b) Study Sources B and C.
How similar are these two sources? Explain your answer. [7]

1c) Study Source D
How far does this source prove that the ministerial pay hikes are not justified? Explain you answer. [6]

1d) Study Source E
How far can you accept this source as evidence on the discontent with the ministerial pay hikes? Explain your
answer. [7]