I remeber watching a feedback session on TV between Melissa Hiak and David Lim (former MP and ex-President Scholar, later turned NOL CEO then left and dunno go where now) in 2001.
The topic was the increase in Ministers' salaries and scholars who break bonds.
I tried to call in to ask a question but could not get through.
David Lim was the one who said "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys as ministers"
He also added that the Ministers put potential candidates through an extremely careful and thorough process to decide if the candidate is sincere in his desire to serve Singapore and hence the question of people entering politics for the sake of money is near impossible.
In the same session in response to scholars breaking bonds he said something about how scholars must learn to have a sense of loyalty and duty to give serve the nation and that it cannot just be about the best offer on the table for them.
He also added that PSC had a very rigorous process of selecting their candidates to choose the right candidates who would return to serve Singapore, but despite that scholars are still breaking their bonds.
I wanted to call in to say the following :
"Good evening Mr Lim. I have noted your comments regarding the two topics. Although the two topics are being discussed seperately I see a link and association between the two.
Regarding the Ministers' salaries, what you are saying is that the Ministers want to be paid what they think they are worth. And that in today's world it is only realistic to expect that you must pay the right amount to get the right people for the job. That I can understand.
So the leaders of Singapore speak this. And this message filters across our nation to every person in Singapore including the young student we have applying for scholarships. These students also take the same view. They take up scholarship, get to the very top in their Ivy League universities, are then head hunted by foreign MNCs and the offer to them is way in excess of what they would get when they return to Singapore. They remember the words of Singapore's leaders. Nobody wants to feel like a monkey when they could be paid huge sums of money. Hence they decide to allow the MNCs to break their bonds for them and take the high paying jobs.
The bond breakers are smart. They are merely following the principle set by our Ministers. Seek to be paid what you think you are worth and accept nothing less regardless of any reason.
I would also like to ask Mr Lim this : The Ministers are so sure that their method of choosing the right candidates for MPs weeds out the money-grabbers totally. But then the PSC's method seems to have been proven to fail. Why not apply the Ministers' methods of choosing candidates for office to the PSC selection process for scholars? Or could it also be possible that the "fail-proof" method of the Ministers can indeed have flaws as well?"
Anyway 7 years ago I realised there was something wrong with this whole way of thinking. And to be proven right, David Lim left office subsequently to join the private sector (NOL) where he would earn much more than what he was getting as a Minister of State. I have a very good friend whose father is a grassroots leader who works closely in David Lim's old ward. It was interesting to listen to how David Lim operated in his old ward.
7 years later, we are seeing the same debate. Ministers' salaries to go up by a million a year. Philip Yeo says Singaporeans are bond breakers and not hungry. Why not give the scholarships to foreigners who are hungrier and have the right values.
Don't they realise that leadership begins with me?