Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Jumping into the fray...

With all the debate on about the pay increase in ministers' salaries from S$1.2mil to S$2mil, the story in ST about the woman in her 80's who had to eat plain rice with black sauce just hit me badly. In affluent Singapore, when people are quibbling about $1 mil more, this seems so unbelievably unfair. So I drummed up a letter, tried to be as er, diplomatic as I can and sent it in to the ST Forum. I don't know if they will print it.

"I refer to the current debate surrounding the increase in ministerial pay and to the front page article about the elderly subsisting on public welfare in the 3 Apr 2007 edition of ST.

While these two issues may seem separate, I find it deeply ironic to note that in Singapore, while one end is quibbling about a million-dollar increase in salary, the other end is finding it hard to survive on $290 a month.

The increase of $30 in public assistance is a pittance.

It was heart-wrenching to read about howsome elderly went without three square meals a day just to make ends meet. MPs have spoken up on how hardit is for one to live on $290. I cannot agree more with the MP who bluntly said that those who believe that subsisting on $290 a month is possible, is divorced from reality. Yet when this issue was raised in parliament, the government did not agree and felt that the amount was sufficient.

In contrast, a salary of $1.2 million a year is now deemed ‘insufficient’ to retain talent and to keep a clean government.

Flipping through a national newspaper always gives one insight into the microcosm of life in that country. That both these issues appear in the same newspaper is telling about the depth of the divide between the haves and the have-nots here.

Where is this nation heading when we have to pay huge amounts of money for a handful of people to govern,while a larger number on the ground quietly, but literally may go hungry because $290 is deemed‘enough’?

If this is 'enough' why would it not be'enough' for a top government official to survive on $1.2 million a year?

Would it cost a lot to increase payouts on the Public Assistance Scheme to be in the region of about $500 a month – in my opinion, a more reasonable figure for one to survive on? Would the proposed increase be drastically higher or lower than the proposed ministerial salary increase?

We have a talented and clean government. By all means, let’s pay them what they deserve. But talent and incorruptibility aside, another key hallmark of good governance is this: compassion.

I hope the government, while ready to up the salaries of the top ranks in government, will also find it in their hearts to further increase the payouts from the Public Assistance Scheme. That way, not only will we have a first-world government, but it will be a government with heart –priceless in value."

1 comment:

Rita said...

Errmmm...maybe our government thinks the poor doesn't need to be kept incorruptible ?