Millionaire Ministers

Government ministers in our near neighbor Singapore will earn US$1.2 million each this year, under new legislation, even taking into account a 20-percent pay cut as the global downturn hits the city-state hard.

Singapore has no natural resources to speak of and earns the bulk of its income from IT-related manufacturing and banking services that are dependent on a highly educated workforce that includes foreign nationals. It has the desirable infrastructure, and salary packages, to attract such people.

Indonesia is brimming in natural resources – oil, gas, gold, silver, copper and many more – but is bedeviled with systematic corruption that drags this vast nation down.

As we have argued on this page in the past, pay officials enough and you will go a long way toward wiping out endemic graft. Hong Kong is an example of a small place that was rife with corruption until stern measures were introduced and officials paid well.

Singapore’s ministerial salary packages may seem astronomical by ordinary standards – the American president earns $400,000 a year, excluding substantial expenses, seven times less than the $2.8 million paycheck Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the world’s highest-paid government official, is now getting – and they are. But wealthy Singapore can afford it – for now.

With Singapore government salaries linked to economic performance and new figures released this week showing the country is cascading into deep recession, those pay figures may decrease.

In terms of battling corruption, however, Singapore has long since grasped the basic tenet that if you pay officials adequately, automatically the temptation is removed.

In Bali and all across Indonesia, that principle has regrettably not yet been adopted, and so we have pitiful sights of police extorting money from tourists to bolster their meager salaries, and the wide web of overwhelming corruption that ensures no real progression whatsoever.

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