Transactional National Identity: Ministers leading by example

At a dialogue with youth leaders from religious, clan and community groups after his visit to Geylang Serai, Minister Chan said that there were two types of national identity: a “transactional” national identity that is based purely on the benefits of being a citizen and one where citizens are committed to Singapore “even when the chips are down”.

Minister Chan asked the audience: “Is your staying in Singapore conditional on certain factors, particularly material or otherwise? Is it contingent on certain conditions being met? What if somebody else can give you better, cheaper, cost of living? What if there is a serious recession in the next few years and you cannot find the jobs you like?” Minister Chan highlighted that the answer to those questions would determine if we will have SG100.

Minister Chan’s questions are spot on. But coming from a minister who has such high salary, it is perhaps slightly ironic. The high salaries of Singaporean ministers are premised on the assumption that highly capable Singaporeans would only be willing to be ministers if they are paid well. This one is Ah Gong himself say one. Isn’t that the being typically transactional?

Of course, some may say, and I am inclined to believe, that a person like Minister Chan would still serve as a minster even without the high salaries. But is that true of the other Ministers? More importantly, it’s the signalling effect.

The high ministerial salaries is essentially telling use this: Ministers will only serve Singapore as a minister if I am paid well? Conversely, if Singapore can no longer afford to pay me well, then none of the highly capable people who are now ministers will willingly make the sacrifices needed to be Ministers. And if our leaders don’t lead by example, or worse, the example they demonstrate is that they ARE being very transactional, then why should the rest of us Singaporeans NOT be transactional?

So… if we accept what Minister Chan said to be true, that in order for us to see a SG100, we need to shift away from a “transactional” national identity, then perhaps the ministers should lead by example.

Only if our ministers do indeed lead by example and show that they are willing to serve Singapore without massive financial reward, then they will have the moral authority to inspire the rest of Singapore to develop a truly cohesive national identity that would stand the test of time, even if the chips are down.

Otherwise, it just sounds so hypocritical.

[Featured image: Chan Chun Sing at a dialogue. Image from ST by Lim Yaohui]

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12 thoughts on “Transactional National Identity: Ministers leading by example

  1. There is another way to look at this “transactional” identity. Does Singapore treat its citizens based on their economic values to the country or does it stand by its citizens through tough time and old age? By suppressing citizen wages and depriving them of their CPF returns, Minister Chan should look into the mirror first.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Daily SG: 4 Apr 2016 | The Singapore Daily

  3. The record of PAP politicians speak for itself – all PAP office holders and MPs retire from politics the moment they don’t have a position. So for a Minister to lecture us on National Identity is yet another joke.

    What happened to all those people who lost in Aljunied ? All “retired” from politics. Why ? Transactional contribution ?

    Will this Minister also “retire” from politics if he does not become the PM ?

    How will the MIW survive without their great partner – the ST ?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Quite bluntly, my mind shuts off whenever any of these ministers rant about loyalty etc. Because it was not that long ago that they regularly moan about how they wouldn’t do their jobs if not paid (huge) salaries etc. Grace Fu? Lim Wee Kiat, with his notorious no dignity to speak to rich people comment? And let’s not forget how they mocked Chen Show Mao when the messy hair one spoke about parliament being a higher calling.

    In short, lofty, maudlin words well suited for a public speech. But I think everybody, including the ministers themselves, know what the reality is.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We have also been taught by the PAP that benefits given to citizens are purely transactional in that you vote for us, you will get upgrading and other goodies but vote for opposition and you will get none of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes the minister’s pay should be low. I mean just look at Malaysia’s PM, his salary is super cheap. We can save a lot of money by getting people like Najib to be our PM.

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      • Better still replace our cabinet with Malaysia’s ministers in their cabinet. Even more savings. We can get more savings by cutting MPs pay. They should not be paid to get themselves rich. Their duty is to serve us and make us rich.

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    • The power of PAP propaganda! It feels good to compare Singapore to third world and corrupt countries. Of course Singapore comes out ahead (barely) LOL.

      There are hundreds of thousands of legislative positions in the U.S. at federal, state, county, and city levels. NONE of these legislators pay themselves corrupt-level “salaries”. Yes, there are occasional corruptions but it is no worse than Singapore.

      Liked by 1 person

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