MM Lee: Social divide inevitable

Dear Mr Lee,

I refer to your comments made at the Kent Ridge Ministerial forum as reported by Straits Times on 20 Oct 2009.

You said that Singapore’s approach is to leave the market to decide the right level of pay. But where is the market that decides your pay? Our political market is a virtual monopoly so you end up deciding your own pay. We should get the recently set up Competition Commission of Singapore to even up the political playing field so that a healthy political market can develop that will decide the right level of pay for our politicians.

You said that any job is better than no job. But a job that pays three million dollars a year is infinitely better than one that pays three hundred dollars a week. Show us you mean what you say when you said “never mind the Gini coefficient, if you don’t have a job, you get zero against those jobs” by taking on those jobs that pay three hundred dollars a week.

You said that salaries of unskilled workers would be kept low because of competition from China and India. But jobs at coffee shops, bus companies and food courts need not face competition from China and India. Yet they do because we allow them to.

You said that at the higher end, workers deployed to oversee foreign operations will attract higher pay. But deployment is a decision that we make. Why are we deploying such large numbers of foreigners in well paying jobs in government linked companies? The billion dollar losses by Temasek should warn us of the value that we’re getting from these so-called talents.

You said that social class divide is unavoidable. The European nations show us it can be avoided.

You said that Li Peng’s children probably deserve the high level positions they hold but with one thousand and three hundred million other Chinese, there is a good chance that there are even more deserving candidates. Therefore, while connection is important in life, one of the basic tenets of the Singapore pledge as well as an important ingredient to Singapore’s success necessitates that we do not favour the favoured more than he deserves.

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