Minister Teo Chee Hean will make the much-awaited statement on ministerial and top civil servant salaries on Monday. A debate will follow. I'm scheduled to be the eighth speaker (not sure out of how many in all), and will certainly speak on Monday itself.
I still haven't written my speech, but it's been stewing in my head for weeks now, I've been talking to plenty of people (or rather, plenty of people have been volunteering their views to me! Not that I mind, of course) about it, and I set out my main points last week. I've also got a stack of newspaper cuttings -- well, tearings, rather -- on the topic, collected over the past few weeks. So I will get it down over the weekend.
But I'd like to point everyone to an article and a letter that were published in The Straits Times today, which make for interesting reading. Firstly, there was a piece by Catherine Lim titled "Be mindful of the affective gap".
Secondly, there was a letter from a Director in the Public Service Division, responding to a couple of earlier letters. One of the things that has really struck me over the past couple of weeks was how the PSD slowly began releasing more and more information on ministerial and top Administrative Service salaries.
I don't think that the entire exercise has been terribly well managed in terms of information dissemination. Until The Straits Times ran a one-page piece containing a whole slew of information from the PSD (either last week or ealier this week), there was a whole lot of speculation -- much of it wild, and as it turns out misguided -- but not that much facts and figures in the public domain.
That may or may not have been a deliberate strategy by the PSD, but it has definitely contributed to massive misconception on the part of the public over the past few weeks. The Government prides itself on transparency in decision-making, but I think it has fallen short a bit in this case.
One sentence in this letter in particular caught my eye, when the writer wrote: "Both writers have grossly exaggerated the amounts." That seems to suggest that the writers of the earlier letters deliberately, intentionally and mischievously inflated the amounts involved to make their case. With all due respect, they were merely speculating and shooting in the dark with what little dribs and drabs of information had been made available.
So I think that sentence was unfair to the writers, and also shows up the consequences of not releasing all relevant information openly and transparently from the very start. And let's just take a step back, and think about all those people out there who read the earlier letters, but not the clarification by PSD -- what sort of misconceptions would they be operating under right now?