24 April, 2007

"I say, 'rubbish,'' Singapore's founding leader dismisses gripes over pay hike

"Arrogant and disrespectful," that was what Tun Mahathir Mohamad slammed Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew for his insulting remarks about Malaysian and Indonesia’s treatment of the Chinese community last year.

Lee Kuan Yew said the attitude of neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia towards Singapore was shaped by the way they treat their own ethnic Chinese minorities.

"Our neighbours both have problems with their Chinese. They are successful. They are hardworking and therefore they are systemically marginalised," he said.

Indonesia and Malaysia "want Singapore, to put it simply, to be like their Chinese — compliant", Lee said.


In which, by responding to his statement, Mahathir told Kuan Yew not to feel smug about what he had said.

"You should just guard your own rice bowl. You are not that clever. In a small group, perhaps you seem clever.

"But when he goes to China, the Chinese there don’t want to listen to him. The Chinese in China don’t think much of him and it is a fact that he is marginalised by Chinese in the world," he said.

The debate over the million-dollar paychecks of Singapore's cabinet ministers is "rubbish" because the city-state needs to attract extraordinary people to run it, founding leader Lee Kuan Yew said in remarks published Monday.

"The biggest mistake any Singaporean can make is to believe that Singapore is an ordinary country and can behave like an ordinary country like Malaysia, like Indonesia, like Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark," he was quoted by the Straits Times as saying over the weekend.

So Singapore is an Extraordinary country ?

The blunt-talking former prime minister said the public furore over the decision to raise cabinet ministers' base salaries by more than 30 percent to 1.05 million US dollars per year was "completely unreal."

"I say, 'rubbish,'" he told 400 members of the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) on Saturday.

Singapore, with its lack of natural resources and small population, needs attractive packages to draw talented people into public service or the country's future prosperity would be at risk, Lee warned.

"The problem we now face is how to attract more talent, how to headhunt and to persuade the best to come into parliament," said Lee, 83, who remains an influential figure in the government with the title of "minister mentor."

"I see this place going for another 50 years, no problem. But you need top-grade government," Lee said.



He had said: "If you are going to quarrel about S$46 million – up or down another S$10 to S$20 million – I say you don't have a sense of proportion."

And when it comes to benchmarking, Mr Lee said his own annual income, which is S$2.7 million, is a fraction of what the top manager in the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) earns.

Why the Singapore Government pegging salaries with public sector and not benchmark with other Governments? (like US, UK? Japan?)

He said: "The cure for all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government... your asset values will disappear, your apartments will be worth a fraction of what it is, your jobs will be in peril, your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other persons' countries - foreign workers."

When asked to comment on the perception that political leaders should not be in it for the money, and instead, be ready to make that extra sacrifice for the good of the people, the Minister Mentor said it is an admirable sentiment.

Has he taught them "not be in it for the money, and instead, be ready to make that extra sacrifice for the good of the people, of Singaporeans" ?


Related Topic:

How much to pay politicians? The Singapore Case - Opinion Asia.

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