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Paying the politicians

January 18th, 2012

Singapore is currently “debating” how much to pay its elected leaders. Singapore public servants are well paid by most any standard. According to the papers here the Prime Minister made SG$3,072,200 in 2010 (making him the highest paid politician in the world according to this article [money.ca.msn.com]). Three million dollars. But they are reducing that down to SG$2,200,000 this year. It recently took four pages of the paper to explain how they arrived at these numbers — base salary, annual variable component, 13th month bonus, individual bonus and national bonus… It’s all very complex stuff [salary.sg], just to justify overpaying already rich public servants; you know people who work for the voters, the vast majority of which do not make so much. In fact the average household income for Singaporeans in 2010 was SG$96,000 (according to a Singapore Statistics Department report here [singstat.gov.sg]). Then again, as many Singaporeans know its’ not a country its’ a corporation and the PM is the CEO. CEO’s every where are making astronomical salaries, on the BBC they other day I heard that the average CEO salary was 147 times that of their average employee. By that score Singapore Inc is not too bad at less than 23 times.

Anyway, there is lots of debate and propaganda about Singaporean politicians salary on the web. But the debate gave me an idea. Since politicians are elected and they work for the voters shouldn’t their salary be pegged to the average income of their constituents? I’d like to see politicians paid this way; if they manage to increase the income of their constituents then their salary would go up, if it goes down on their watch then they suffer equally. You want to make astronomical amounts of money so you can swim in it like Uncle Scrooge then work in the private (banking) sector. Politics is supposed to be about improving the public good and service. It should not be a career choice based on salary, I don’t know how to you can take the power trip aspect out of it but I think we should take the greed aspect out. Maybe you’d still have to be rich to run for office but at least it would not be a direct path to getting richer. Besides the perks make up for a low take home salary.

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