Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Reason 0026 : Insensitive Civil Servants

Mr Tan Yong Soon, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, wrote an article detailing his extravagant family holiday to France which included lessons at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, in the Straits Times' Life! section on 06 Jan 2009. This article was roundly criticised by the minister in charge of the civil service, Mr Teo Chee Hean, as being 'ill-judged' and showing a 'lack of sensitivity'.

Speaking about the issue in Parliament, Mr Teo said that what Mr Tan does on his vacation is 'his private decision' but he was ‘disappointed with what he (Mr Tan) wrote in The Straits Times,’ said Mr Teo of Mr Tan in Parliament on Monday. ‘The article showed a lack of sensitivity and was ill-judged.’ Mr Teo also said that writing about such an ostentatious show of spending in these tough times in the national newspaper ‘was unnecessarily provocative and unimaginably insensitive’ and that the article 'struck a discordant note during the current difficult economic circumstances when it is especially important to show solidarity and empathy for Singaporeans who are facing uncertainties and hardship'.
According to the article, lessons for the entire 3 weeks cost S$15,500 per head and in total, S$46,500 for Mr Tan, his wife and son, not including air tickets and living expenses in France. In addition, Mr Tan had taken 5 weeks work leave for the trip.
The high salaries of Singapore’s top civil servants and ministers has always been a sore point for many ordinary Singaporeans and especially in these tough times, it is especially hard to swallow the fact that Mr Tan had spent the equivalent of 2 years wages for the average white-collar Singaporean on his hobby as well as sight-seeing within a few weeks.

True, the money is his and he is free to spend it in whatever way he wishes but to publish such a story of extravagance in a time when people are worrying about rising prices, losing their jobs, and are told by the Gahmen to tighten their belts and brace themselves for retrenchments (even those under 30 years of age) smacks of downright insensitiveness.

In addition, I think there is something seriously wrong when you are a top civil servant and are able to go away for 5 weeks or more without being missed. Assuming you are a business owner, your employees will not begrudge you if you choose to go on leave for months at a time and leave all company affairs to them, as they understand that you are ultimately the owner and boss of the company.

However, civil servants are generally viewed as being custodians of the nation and are paid using taxpayer money, so for a civil servant to be able to go on leave for 5 weeks or longer, whether he is backed by a strong team or not, suggests that this person is perhaps not needed and is dispensable since his team and subordinates can handle all the work and thus, the money paid to him can be put to better use.

1 comment:

hot japanese girls said...

Aiya, They all got so big fat pay, Will' they ever know the pain and sufferings we go thru?! How will they know if they dun even take MRT in Peek horus, earn a 2k a month salary, Drive in congested roads, working in low paying jobs, suffer the agony of ordindary poor singaporean citizen working hard to scrape ends needs.