I must admit that I was a little shocked reading PM Lee’s comments that race is still a factor that determines voters’ preferences in Singapore, and that while we may have a non-Chinese Prime Minister one day, it’s not likely to happen soon.
First, comparing the American system and the Singapore one is like comparing apples and oranges. They are different. America has a Presidential system where the populace cast their vote for their candidate of choice (along with the unique feature of the electorate college voting structure to ensure that the voting is not controlled in the hands of population-heavy states).
Singapore, on the other hand, has a parliamentary system, where the electorate votes for their Members of Parliament, and where the Prime Minister is selected by the Members of Parliament as the leader of the Party, or the “First amongst Equal”.
Hmm, does this mean that PAP party members who select the leader of their Party have an inherent racial bias? I sure hope not, because aren’t the men and women who passed the PAP’s stringent selection criteria those of great talent and integrity? And oh, that might not also gel well with the PAP’s government push to attract more foreign talent, regardless of color. But hey, what do I know? 😛
PS: Of course I am not stating the other obvious difference between the America and the Singapore system, i.e. voting in America is voluntary and you can be almost guaranteed to be able to cast your vote at least once in your lifetime if you choose to. In Singapore, voting is compulsory, but how many of us have voted, really? Perhaps PM Lee may be right. The non-Chinese Prime Minister is not going to happen very soon. 🙂
PPS (updated 10 Nov): Wasn’t Singapore’s first Chief Minister in 1955, David Marshall, a Jewish man of Iraqi descent?
(Extract)Non-Chinese PM? Possible, but not soon
(Straits Times, 10 November 2008)
Singapore may have a non-Chinese prime minister one day but that is unlikely to happen any time soon, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday, four days after Americans elected their first black president.
Mr Lee said race is still a factor that determines voters’ preferences here, although he noted that attitudes have shifted.
He was replying to a question from Association of Muslim Professionals board member Yang Razali Kassim at a dialogue with 350 Malay grassroots and community leaders at the Grassroots Club.
Mr Yang Razali asked if, in the light of Mr Barack Obama’s win, Singapore was ready for a prime minister of a minority race, and specifically from the Malay-Muslim community.
Mr Lee said in reply: ‘It’s possible. It depends on how people vote, on who has the confidence of the population.’
‘Will it happen soon? I don’t think so, because you have to win votes. And these sentiments – who votes for whom, and what makes him identify with that person – these are sentiments which will not disappear completely for a long time, even if people do not talk about it, even if people wish they did not feel it.’
However, he also acknowledged that attitudes towards race have shifted in the last two to three decades.
‘Attitudes have shifted because English provides more of a common ground, because the new generation is better educated and they can see that there are successful people of all races,’ he said.
‘But to reach a position where everybody is totally race-blind and religion-blind, I think that’s very difficult. You will not find it in any country in the world.’
Iconic American Shirt Dress (first launched in Fall 2001 after Sept 11 and re-issued in 2008) by Catherine Malandrino
I was catching up on my reading of the Singapore Straits Times when I came across the news that “Senior Civil Servants’ Pay to Fall (ST, 24 October 2008). As part of the bonus for senior civil servants come in the form of a GDP bonus, a slower economic growth this year (i.e. lower GDP growth rate) will lead to a lower bonus payout.
But wait! Look at the last part of the article! It says that there will be an “adjustment” in the salaries of top civil servants and ministers by year’s end. Again, for Ministers (political appointees), the benchmark is set at two-thirds of the median pay of the top eight earners in these 6 sectors (banking, law, engineering, accountancy, multinational corporations and local manufacturers).
Now, given the near collapse of the global financial sector and countries, including the US, putting out proposals to limit the earnings of top bankers, I wonder how the salary adjustment in the year-end will be.
One thing’s for sure, it’s unlikely to be an adjustment downwards. Assuming I’m right, does this mean that even with a cut in bonus, pay for senior civil servants (and ministers) are still going to be adjusted upwards? So where’s the cut?
Wow, we sure need to pay them more to get us out of the technical recession, don’t we?
PS: Talking Cock has 2 related articles on this! Hilarious, I must say. Do read “Leaked: This Year’s O Levels Math Paper” and “Singapore in recession: Minister to get pay raise”
Senior civil servants’ pay to fall
Part of their annual pay is linked to growth rate of gross domestic product
(Straits Times, 24 October 2008)
SENIOR civil servants can expect their annual pay package to shrink next year, because a significant portion of it is tied to how well the economy is doing.The inevitable decline was indicated by the Public Service Division (PSD) yesterday when it responded to media queries on whether the civil service would be making a salary revision.
No decision had been reached on any revision, it said in a statement, as data on private-sector salaries was still being compiled.
‘Given the recent turmoil in the financial markets and revised economic forecasts, the PSD will need some time to study the data and salary trends before coming to a decision,’ it added.
The PSD, a department in the Prime Minister’s Office that oversees civil service matters, said the salaries are reviewed and revised regularly to keep them in line with the private sector’s.
It noted that a ‘significant part of a senior civil servant’s annual pay’ is in the form of a GDP Bonus, which is linked to the gross domestic product’s growth rate.
‘If the GDP growth rate falls, the GDP Bonus will also fall, resulting in a reduction in the annual salaries of senior civil servants,’ the PSD said in a statement.
The bonus applies to administrative officers, senior civil servants and political, judicial and statutory appointment holders.
It is paid out in March each year, based on the GDP growth rate of the preceding year.
It was introduced in 2000 and, last year, was revised to form 20 per cent of the annual pay of top officials.
This bonus is three months if the economy grows by 5 per cent and can go up to eight months should growth hit 10 per cent or more.
However, it is zero if the economy grows by 2 per cent or less.
Given the official forecast of an economic growth rate of around 3 per cent this year, top officials are likely to get a GDP Bonus of one month.
This year will also see an adjustment in the salaries of top civil servants and ministers by year’s end.
This third round of pay adjustments was announced in April 2007.
The Government said then that it planned to make further changes to bring annual salaries of ministers at the entry-level grade of MR4 to 88 per cent of the benchmark by the end of this year.
The benchmark is set at two-thirds of the median pay of the top eight earners in each of six sectors: banking, law, engineering, accountancy, multinational corporations and local manufacturers.
In rejecting a plan to inject US$700 billion to save Wall Street, Congress managed to wipe off more than US$1 trillion in market value from the Dow Jones Index, and millions and billions from stock markets worldwide.
Well, we can argue that the US$1 trillion wiped off Dow is “paper money”, but it’s money all the same.
What price, America? It seems regardless of which option, you are caught between a rock and a hard place.
Cost of War in Iraq (to date): US$556 billion
Cost of saving the US economy (initial): US$700 billion
It’s funny how Lyndon Johnson had privatised Fannie Mae in the 1960s to raise money for the Vietnam War. Perhaps now it’s time to stop the war to raise money to save the economy. As they say in Economics 101, it’s about allocation of scare resources.