COMMENT | There was a time when Lee Kuan Yew, prime minister of Singapore, (not known to be a particularly generous man) was forced to bend backwards.
Soon after he came to realise that his cabinet did not comprise the best brains of Singapore because politics was not an attractive profession as ministers and elected representatives were poorly paid, he took swift remedial action.
Today, at the benchmark level, the monthly salary of a Singapore minister is S$55,000 (RM176,000) a month, which works out to an annual salary of S$1,100,000 (RM3,520,000).
We can recall that Lee also stated then that ministers and elected representatives who were paid well were unlikely to be involved in corrupt practices. Lee was right. Politicians in Singapore, by and large, are not known to be corrupt.
With an annual remuneration of S$1,100,000 and if you serve one five-year term, you would have earned S$5,500,000 (RM17,600,000). That amount, plus a generous pension, is more than enough to set a minister and his dependents for life.
Most importantly, when ministers and legislators in Singapore are paid well, which in turn gives them a sense of security for the future, the temptation of corruption is practically non-existent.
Back home, the reverse is true, sadly. This is not a fleeting statement. In general, it seems that the more our ministers and lawmakers are paid, the more we hear of corrupt practices.
Worse, corruption could get out of control when it permeates through the corridors of power down to the civil service and its ruptured chain of command. When the minister and his department head are corrupt, how do you expect the ministry to function effectively and professionally?
So, what do our Malaysian ministers make? Our former minister, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, should know. I like to believe that his figures are correct.
According to the Muar MP, a cabinet member is paid RM50,000 a month. This is normal but what Syed Saddiq revealed next is insanely ‘abnormal’.
A minister also gets a lavish home in Putrajaya, a car, a driver, a licence plate that is worth hundreds of thousands, an approved permit (AP) to bring in luxury cars, and a plot of land in Putrajaya...