The Government has repeatedly stated that the pay hike of its Ministers is justified by the way it handled the Asian economic crisis. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong challenged Singaporeans to judge his government by its results. The SDP thinks that this is a good idea.
At the height of the economic crisis:
- The Singapore dollar plunged 25 per cent from a high of $1.40 to the US Dollar to the present low of $1.74, effectively wiping out tens of billions of dollars in the nation's financial reserves.
- The stock market at one point nose-dived to a heart-stopping 800 points and is still in doldrums.
- The property market bubble popped, crashing by as much as 50 per cent during the crisis and causing thousands of homeowners to suffer the hardship and humiliation of defaulting on their home mortgages. Property prices are still far from pre-crisis levels making a mockery of the fact that Singaporeans are asset-rich.
- 60,000 people have lost their jobs, most of whom still cannot find employment. This does not include the tens of thousands more who remain underemployed and needing two jobs just to make ends meet.
- The income disparity has exacerbated with the lowest 10 per cent of households earning an average of an incredible $133 a month.
- State-owned enterprises were outwitted by foreign competitors, like SingTel, and lost billions of taxpayers' dollars in failed ventures, like DBS and Micropolis.
- The Government failed spectacularly with the Suzhou Industrial Park that was projected at $30 billion.
The PAP has expectedly, and shamelessly, claimed credit for the recovery that Singapore is seemingly experiencing at the moment. Almost every Asian country, however, is seeing rapid growth rates - several much higher than Singapore's. Yet, one doesn't hear of ministers increasing their own salaries, especially when their citizens are still saddled with CPF and wage cuts.
In truth, the Singapore Government knows little about what caused the crisis in the first place and what sparked the recovery in the region. A couple of PAP ministers have admitted as much. When it comes to justifying increase in ministerial salaries, however, the Government will desperately grasp at the wind for any reason - real or imagined.
Whichever way it tries to cut it, the PAP will never convince the people of the need for such mind-boggling salaries for the ministers. All it can do is to bully the people into acceptance like it has done so many times in the past.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party