Bloated cabinet while economy in tailspin

April 2, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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The highest paid politicians in the world

The highest paid politicians in the world

Singapore Democrats

Two new ministers have been added to the already bloated Singapore cabinet with the swearing-in of Mrs Lim Hwee Hua and Mr Gan Kim Yong at the Istana yesterday.

This latest development has increased the number in the cabinet from 18 to 21, with each minister receiving a salary of a couple of million dollars a year.

This latest development has increased the number in the cabinet from 18 to 21, with each minister receiving a salary of a couple of million dollars a year.

Mrs Lim, until recently was a senior minister of state and Mr Gan, from acting becomes Minister for Manpower.

What is disturbing is that Mrs Lim’s new appointment is in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) which is already overstaffed with ministers with no specific portfolios.

With the latest reshuffle, we now have in the PMO two senior ministers, a minister mentor, two deputy prime ministers and a couple of ministers without portfolio.

The swelling of the cabinet is taking place at a time of severe economic downturn which is described by analysts and admitted by PAP ministers as the worst in the history of independent Singapore. 

The PAP ministers have shown to be helpless in this time of economic tailspin, except to dish out the worn out refrain that it’s global in nature and that recovery could take place only after the US had pulled itself out from the financial and economic turmoil.

When he announced the cabinet changes, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described it as a “step in the long-process of self-renewal.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

How can there be “self-renewal and leadership change” when the first prime minister of self-governing Singapore in 1959 — one who is 85-and-a-half years old — is still in the cabinet? And anyone who does not think that Mr Lee Kuan Yew is still the one calling the shots in the Government obviously does not know Singapore’s politics.

The MM is refusing to step down while all his contemporaries and even younger colleagues, a few of them more than a generation younger than him, have retired or is set to retire.

If truth be told, the bloated cabinet and the stuffing of the PMO may signal that something is not quite steady with the Prime Minister himself. Mr Lee Hsien Loong’s health could be less than robust or his tenure as head of government is not inspiring confidence.

Whatever the reason, the new cabinet appointments and reshuffle raise more questions than they answer about the steadiness of the present leadership even as we plunge into troubled months ahead.

Mr Lee Hsien Loong talks about “public anxiety” over the fact that the core of the next-generation leadership is still not in place. Forget about the next generation of leaders, it’s this one that we are concerned about.

Short-sighted

Short-sighted

With the change in the global environment, Singapore cannot continue to pretend that it is business-as-usual. Genuine change in our economic strategy and the reform of our political system are needed.

For this we need leaders with vision that go beyond dollar signs. 

But the truth is that the present lot in the cabinet are the highest paid politicians in the world bar none (see next story) and have every incentive to maintain the status quo and none to effect reform.

They continue to reward themselves with lavish salaries in spite of the fact that our economy has tumbled precipitously, the GIC and Temasek have lost more than $100 billion in reckless investments, a terrorist-suspect escaped without a trace, we’ve been blacklisted as a tax haven, and the casino project is in trouble. 

Just how is a cabinet stuffing or reshuffle make any difference?