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Pay our ministers and gov’t officials higher salaries

The latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2016 was announced earlier this week. Where is Malaysia? We’re at 55, one rung down from the previous year. It looks like we’re slowly and steadily declining and becoming even more corrupt.

Does it come as a surprise? Not to many who have read news on corruption in the country, from the scandalous 1MDB controversy that allegedly implicates Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to the comical ‘cash in the shoe cabinet’ Sabah Water Department employees.

We grumble and get angry about it. But what would be the solution to reduce corruption in the country? I think I may have a suggestion. How about we increase the salaries of our cabinet ministers and government officials?

What? They are already swindling millions, even billions, of ringgit and here I am suggesting that they be paid more? Insane, you say? Well, hear me out. I think I have a valid explanation as to why I say so.

Some years ago, I went to Afghanistan on assignment for several news organisations. One of the stories that I reported on, which struck me quite hard, was when I interviewed the Ministry of Internal Affairs spokesperson, Sediq Sediqqi, about the country’s police force.

This was a year before all foreign forces were to withdraw from the country, and, supposedly leaving Afghanistan a completely sovereign nation. And so the government was preparing to be as independent as it could.

Without me even having to ask, Sediqqi said that corruption in the Afghan police force was at a very alarming level. It could even be said that it was at a point where almost every single police personnel was accepting bribes.

The reason why they were corrupt was simple, he said. They were paid a very low monthly salary and it was definitely not enough to survive, especially if you have a family to take care of. So they have to resort to making side income.

And the ministry’s solution to this, says Sediqqi, is to raise the salary for all police personnel in the country. If they made enough money to provide for their families, then they wouldn’t have to rely on bribes.

I don’t know whether the Afghan government actually went through with the idea and increased their monthly salaries. Neither would I know whether it worked if they did it. I haven’t been back there in six years. But I have to say that it is a good idea.

Another good example, where better salary is used to counter corruption, is Singapore. This is a country that has the highest paid national leader in the world. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong earns approximately S$2.2 million a year (RM6.8 million)...

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