Why do I get the feeling that Gerard Ee's committee is going to make it very complicated? I am waiting for some genius master stroke from his gang of 9 wisemen which look like establishment figures mostly disconnected from the ground.
First, keep is simple, stupid (KISS) and in doing so, if it does not satisfy the objective of attracting quality candidates then we need to pile on, which is the tricky bit. Also avoid producing formulas since none of these wisemen are clairvoyant enough to be sure the formula wouldn't produce absurd outcomes. Have more humility and convene such a committee every few years. No sane corporation would produce a hard formula and pay their senior executives to that. I am hoping for some common sense here.
How to get KISS on the way? If you want the widest possible acceptance, work out our ministerial pay keeping in view how political leaders elsewhere are paid. If you don't, you are not going to get much buy in from the people. The man in the street is not a policy wonk. Given that trust has eroded badly, he is not too willing to trust you with complex reasons he cannot understand. That is why the proposition of the Minimum Wage, an extremely KISS idea would not die.
Don't be afraid that if you pay too little you can't attract the right people. I am afraid stratospheric pay may be attracting the people that we do not want. These are the guys who would run the country like a corporation than for the people.
In the new Singapore, politicians should not be technocrats with a mastery of the intricacies of policy making. They are representatives of the people. Those days where leaders decide and tell you what is good for us are fading away. As reps of the people, they represent us with common sense to the civil service policy makers to decide what gets implemented. Common sense is what too many admin service officers to not have because not being politicians they are often disconnected with the ground. What they have are good brains but often with the liability to be unthinking followers of some models or gurus. Politicians help policy makers in helicopters land and very good politicians inspire policy makers to imaginative and innovative solutions.
If PAP ministers want to keep to their skin as technocrats, they must be prepared to run the risk of getting voted out eventually by alternatives who can hear and feel the heart beat of the people. The choice is theirs to make.
In five years time, the alternative parties can only get stronger. They could be facing an "Aljunied" experience in many GRCs. At the end of the day, if we aren't happy with what Gerard Ee's committee produce, we just as happened recently, let our votes do the talking once more. Why the PM had asked Gerard Ee to do this job, I cannot understand. I thought it would be safer for the Cabinet to deliberate and take a decision on this. For goodness sake, Gerard Ee does not represent us. I don't know why he is so confident about this task. Looks like an impossible job to me. Widening income gap, there is great pressure to chase politicians pay downwards in order to identify with the people. Not careful, they could end up with numbers worse than pre-1994. Whatever for? Sounds really dumb to me. As I cannot accept that they are that dumb, they must assume enough of us are. The whole thing is just wayang or a red herring!
It is too tiring to go into the details. It would take a book to do that! This is an apt reminder when we look beyond the narrow issue of paying government leaders to the whole concept of government. George Bernard Shaw summed it up best.
Democracy is a device that insures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. George Bernard Shaw
It is a fool's errand trying to protect the people against themselves! The wise path which the PAP government hadn't countenance all these years is to educate the people in a manner and way that they deserve good government. Just look at LKY "Hard Truths". It is so dehumanizing, limiting. You came away thinking that in his mind, except for the elites and foreign talent, we are the dump of the human race, just above the animals. That we would respond to sticks and bribes, but never to reason. Needless to say, I wonder why he would even bother to publish something like this. The self defeating logic is so obvious. Yes, hubris led him to come up with a pay formula for ministers. He thought he could foresaw the future well enough. Now the whole thing looks stupid, if I may borrow one of his favorite adjectives.
Yep, I didn't even finish half of "Hard Truths".