Ministerial Pay Cut

The PAP government in Singapore seems to have listened to the call of voters last year by making substantial changes to the salary of the government. Some changes to be noted include the salary of the president being cut by 51% to 1.54 million a year, and the Prime Minister’s salary being cut by 36% to 2.2 million annually. In addition, the pension scheme, which pays civil servants after they retire, has now been removed. The MR4 pay will also now be pegged to the median income of the top 1,000 earners in Singapore, compared to the 48 in the past. In addition, the pay of the top civil servants will also be tied not only to the GDP growth, but to other factors such as unemployment and the salary of the bottom 20% of earners. This is already considered a great change in the income as a proportion.

Many people welcome this change when they were called up by the Straits Times, commenting that it was an important step towards change in the country. However, a considerable amount of people feel that the pay is still too much. Currently, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, is the top earner of the world’s civil servants. According to the New York Times, even after receiving this pay cut, he earns 3.1 times of the second in the list, 4 times of Obama’s pay, and an astonishing 46.6 times of India’s Prime Minister. Besides this, Mr Lee’s salary is more than the Prime Ministers of France, Germany and the UK put together! The people feel that the pay that the government still earns is more than they need and deserve. Grace Fu, a senior civil servant in Singapore put up a post on her blog, saying that she “had some grounds to believe that [her] family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though [she] experienced a drop in [her] income. So it is with this recent pay cut. If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering political office.” This worked up the sentiments of the people. Mr Brown, a known online comedian in Singapore, put up a video recently to express these feelings. The video showed that the people felt Grace Fu was implying that she had sacrificed a lot in order to serve the country, when the people believed otherwise. In addition, people believed that public scrutiny, something which she claimed to have experience to serve Singaporeans, is part of being a politician. On top of these comments, the chairman of the committee which reviewed the salaries of the government, Mr Gerard Ee commented that he hoped that 1.1 million is enough to continue attracting the top talent to be civil servants. However, I feel that a starting salary of this amount is already a great amount, and even if the pay is 2 times the current amount, these top talents, the CEOs in the private sector, would still not transfer to the public sector. The opinion of the people is mostly positive, and they are welcoming the pay cut.

In my opinion, this ministerial pay cut is the right way to go. In the view of the PAP government, such a cut will bring about a better political image to Singaporeans as one that is willing to hear out and listen to the opinions of the people. Last year’s voting result showed the decrease in popularity of the PAP due to reasons such as the high pay of the ministers. This cut is thus likely to significantly increase the popularity of the party. From the point of view of the people, especially that of the younger generation, on the other hand, changes their view of the government. With the recent cuts to the salaries, there is now a better reason for the voters to believe that the PAP will listen to their suggestions in the future. I shall also express my opinion about the question raised regarding whether the MR4 salaries should be tied to the salaries of other countries or the bottom 20% of earners in Singapore. I believe that the latter choice is the better one. First of all, it is highly unfeasible to peg it to the salaries of other countries. There are many considerations that should come into place when deciding how the pay is pegged. Although Indonesia and Malaysia are bigger than Singapore, it does not necessarily mean that the job of the government in Singapore is easier than Indonesia and Malaysia. Even if it was, then how are we going to decide the proportion of pay that each government should get? On the other hand, having a fixed way to calculate the pay, like 100 times of the salary of the bottom 20% of earners in Singapore, as Low Thia Khiang proposes, is much easier to implement.

In conclusion, this pay cut may spell a change in the Singaporean government. This might change the general impression of the PAP to one which listens to the people and is more accepting towards the opinions and suggestions of the people. 

Extreme Sports

Interest in extreme sports in recent years has been on the rise. This includes activities like paragliding, wave boarding and hang gliding. Although there is no exact definition for the term “extreme sports”, they are mostly leisure activities in where the most likely outcome of a mismanagement accident is death. Despite this, the number of people of people who are picking up such sports is gradually increasing.

Why is this trend occurring? I believe that it is because of the nature of such extreme sports. More and more youths are seeking adrenaline with the increase in horror movies and roller coaster ride. Therefore, more people are coming up with new kinds of activities which give them the adrenaline. With the increase of popularity, such activities will become sports. For example, the number of people who start paragliding has skyrocketed in recent years. Another reason would be that for some reason, they may want to do it before passing away. For instance, the movie “The Bucket List” greatly shows this fact.  The two terminally ill patients came up with a list of things they wanted to do before they died, for example parachuting, or climbing a mountain. However, such activities that provide them with the excitement will involve the risk of them losing their lives, which is ultimately bad. Take the example of the Dakar Racing competition, a motor racing competition. The competition started up in the 1970s, but 21 deaths have occurred already since then. Some deaths even involve innocent bystanders! In 2010, a spectator died when a motor racer crashed into her. Thus, from such incidents, it is obvious that such sports are very dangerous not only to those participating but also those who are spectating. In 2011, one competitor who died when he crashed into the side of the track was noted to have said in his last Twitter comment: “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”. I feel that this saying is used inappropriately. Such a saying which has been taken in literal sense is definitely not good. The saying is used figuratively to encourage us to try out new things without the fear of failure, as this will help us to become for resilient and have more perseverance in the future. However, when a person loses his life taking part in extreme sports, then when how can he persevere in the future? The danger of indulging in such extreme sports is evident and I would thus encourage people not to risk their lives through these dangerous sports.

There are a few advantages of taking part in extreme sports, however. Firstly, those who do well in it can boost their confidence – they will have a sense of achievement as only a small group of people are even willing to try it out. This creates self-confidence in them, something that is necessary for people to do well. It makes them feel confident enough to try out other new activities as well as persevere in them. In addition, when these extreme sports become more popular, a more people would then go out to take part in these sports instead of playing video games at home. This unconsciously makes them healthier. However, those who are seeking to be braver also do not necessarily have to risk their lives by participating in extreme sports. Bravery honed from participating in extreme sports is mostly dependent on brute force, and also requires a great deal of physical strength. There are certainly many other outlets through which people can increase their confidence levels. One such example would be taking part in speaking courses. This gives them the confidence to voice their opinions, and will then develop into the confidence they have in themselves. This then makes them more likely to take part in new activities. In my opinion, although attending such courses may not be as effective as taking part in such extreme sports, one’s health is most important.

Since those who take part in such activities are normally youths, most of them are rash and do not consider the consequences in the future. Therefore, I think that the parents should discuss it with their children at length if the latter decides to try out an extreme sport. With parental influence and discussion, then they can come to an agreement and make sure that the choices are considered. If both the parents and the child feel that it is okay for the child to take the risk, then it is fine. However, for this to happen, the parent needs to have a good relationship. Both sides will also benefit in other areas as a result of this. Taking part in an extreme sport is an important decision, and the parents must make sure that the matter is well-thought over before the decision is made.

Not only their parents, but the youths themselves need to consider and weigh the risks against the joy they get from participating in such activities. Is it worth it to risk one’s life in order to participate? If they eventually decide to join, they must always adhere to the rules. Although it may be tempting to follow friends and not use the safety equipment as a challenge, the youths should always know the danger of doing that and must know where to draw the line. Extreme sports are already dangerous in nature and not wearing the safety equipment will further exacerbate the situation.

In conclusion, I strongly discourage people from taking part in extreme sports due to the dangers of doing so. However, if they really want to, they have to watch out for their safety at all times and minimize the chances of accidents. 

North Korea's Predicament

When Kim Jong Il died, scrutiny increased on North Korea, a country which world powers like Japan and US are already watching.

The death of the leader was reminiscent of what happened in China when Mao Zedong died – everyone mourned for their late leader, even though he was a blur and mostly unknown character to the children. Another strange situation has also occurred in both Communist countries – even though their leader was a dictator, apparently their citizens still loved and worshiped him like a god. For example, the aggressive actions of North Korea had resulted in sanctions on the country, creating a food shortage in the country. Despite this, Kim Jong Il was not repentant, starving his people in order to push for his ideals. However, the people were fearful of being punished, and were also ignorant of the situation outside North Korea. At first, the people were even tricked to believe that Kim Jong Il had died of a heart attack instead of cancer. Thus, it can be observed how dangerous it is when there is a lack of press freedom. The international community is fully aware of Kim Jong Il’s misdemeanor. He wears branded clothes, and lives a lavish lifestyle while his citizens are starving and suffering. More importantly, the North Korean government has repeatedly refused to participate in talks and negotiations asking them to abandon their nuclear weapons program. This might change under the new ruler, Kim Jong Un, as he seems much more likely to cooperate. However, at this point, North Korea does not seem to be trying to take any steps to reform its economy and improve the welfare of its citizens. Kim Jong Un, seems to be faithfully following the ideals of his father, and is using the same propaganda machine on the North Koreans to cement his grip on power. One advantage of this is that changes will be gradual and predictable, and the country’s neighbours should not be duly alarmed for now.

This may be the calm before the storm. There are still some new threats that may arise in the future. Even though the younger Kim would be in control of the country’s nuclear program, and he has stated that he will not share his power with anyone else, his uncle Jang Sung-Taek and his aunt Kim Kyong-Hui, who are known hardliners, will be his mentors. Therefore, it cannot be easily assumed that Kim Jong Un will not be able to rule his country well. Furthermore, the US army has found out that North Korea has already built both medium range and long range ballistic missiles, and analyst predict that the nuclear warheads produced will be used on its missiles. This has brought about a lot of worry in the Western countries. China, who shared the same Communist idealogy as North Korea in the past, and is also the economic supporter for the country, is expected to have the best influence over the country and its actions. Therefore, other countries like Japan and the US has arranged talks with China to try to convince it to North Korea.

In my opinion, I feel that the culture of Koreans in general that they were not to question their leaders and just follow their orders have led them into this sticky situation. The leaders could take advantage of the citizen’s trust in them and implement whatever rules he wanted, abusing citizens. However, this will not last for long as news of the country not treating its citizens well will eventually leak out. From there, there would be international pressure for them to stop their mistreatment or their development on military instead of help for the people. Sooner or later, North Korea will discover that they cannot continue to oppress the people for much longer – the isolation of the country from the rest of the world have resulted in the country being backward in many areas, and the people may even rise up to revolt against them.

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.