Saturday, August 10, 2013

Interesting Finds on SG Cabinet

The GRC red carpet to ministerial pedestal:
17 ministers out of 18, ie 94.4% of our rare breed of talent entered politics via this mode with Lee Hsien Loong being the exception. Almost everyone rode on the coattails of ministers before getting to see the scenery of a Parliament.

Teck Ghee SMC forgotten
Surprise! Surprise! For a leader who habitually hides behind his subordinates and father, Lee Hsien Loong stood the test on his own feet in his debut election. He is the only minister in our current entire Cabinet who was directly elected into the Parliament via a SMC. 

GRC remains the greatest all-time innovation of Singapore. Cleverly introduced as a short-cut to the Parliament for political newbies. And Singapore electorate received an expensive gift in the election of 2011 in the form of Tin Pei Lin as a result.

The ministers-churning GRC: Tanjong Pagar GRC
It is not just any door. But the door that opens to the realm of heaven opportunities of ministerial appointments and perks.

27% of our Cabinet, ie 5 out of 18 ministers, entered our political arena via the golden door of Tanjong Pagar GRC (CCS, KBW, LHK, LSS, LTY). Tanjong Pagar GRC producing the most number of ministers in our current co-hort among all the GRCs and SMCs. Jurong GRC, Marine Parade GRC and West Coast GRC come in second.

The most formidable GRC: Tanjong Pagar GRC
Remains uncontested since 1991 for 5 consecutive elections. In the last election in 2011, contestants were disqualified for submitting their forms THIRTY FIVE SECONDS late. Thanks to that particular clock/watch, it helps to preserve the unscathed record of Tanjong Pagar GRC uncontested for two decades.

The boundary pool of ministers:
It is just not about qualities but professions. You must fall within a particular kind of mould, namely in the form of army officers, civil servants, GLC leaders, doctors or lawyers.

The most undesirable trait of ministers:
That you do not come from the army, the civil service, the GLCs, medical profession (sorry, nursing excluded. Pls remember that nurses are classified as unskilled workers) and legal profession. If you do not fall within these boundaries of professions, wait for your next life for that chance to be ever parachuted into the Cabinet as long as PAP holds firmly to their political lifeline. Forget about PAP changing at its core. It is easier to remove all the spots on the leopard than to anticipate core changes within PAP.

From Ah Boys to Men: Yes, Sir!
6 out of 18 of our ministers come from an army background (LHL, CCS, TCJ, LHK, LTY and TCH). One third of our Cabinet is nurtured to the habit and demeanour of issuing orders to their subordinates.

Unfortunately, in the political context, there are no soldiers to command respect (note that it is to command respect instead of earning respect) but only citizens to be herded.

The loneliest department: PMO
So much so that it needs three ministers to warm up the temperature at PMO. Yes, three ministers without portfolio. Grace Fu, LSS and Iswaran. Equivalent to 16 % of the Cabinet manpower channelled to the PMO alone. And I thought LHL had challenges looking for sufficient talents to work for him in the Cabinet. Fyi, there is only ONE minister without any portfolio in the entire UK cabinet.

Cheaper, better and faster Cabinet?
Minister without portfolio LSS urged Singaporeans to improve productivity before dreaming about wage rise. His most famous advice for our workers is: cheaper, better and faster. Nevertheless, the contrary for our Cabinet ministers.

Take a look at our Cabinet size and price.

18 ministers (including PM) for a country of a population size of 5.3 million (as at 2012 and this figure is still growing) and over a land size of 710 km2 with a total GDP (PPP) of US$327.557 billion (2012 IMF estimate).  

To put it simply, employing one minister for 0.244 million people per 39.4km2. If we divide our total GDP over our Cabinet size, one minister would account for US$18.1 billion GDP produced.

Compare this to the UK cabinet. 32 ministers (including the PM) for a population of 63 million (as at 2011) over a land size of 243,610 km2 with a total GDP (PPP) of US$2.316 trillion.

11 times our population, 342 times our land size and 3 times our total GDP but their Cabinet size is less than twice of ours and the salaries (excluding bonuses) alone for their entire Cabinet are lower than ours.

I would imagine that given the relative smaller population density, there is the advantage of swifter and greater control and response. Infrastructure and essentials such as healthcare, public transport and housing will be relatively easier to deal with. And crises too.

The reality in Singapore tells a different story. Think of the recent haze crisis. It was THREE days after PSI hit hazardous level that free N95 masks were distributed free of charge to the lower income groups.

Looking at the efficiency and the value for money of our Cabinet, LSS’ words on “cheaper, better and faster” only serve to irk.