I had an interesting conversation with an American friend of my colleague some time ago. We were discussing the Singapore government and I mentioned that there is some feeling among certain sections of the populace, contrary to what our government professes, that the government is corrupt as evidenced by the insane wages they have.
The American friend made the argument that the Singapore government could not possibly be corrupt insofar as corrupt is being defined as “the exchange of favors and influence for illegal payments” and high wages while distasteful are not illegal.
While one cannot underestimate the power of an avaricious nature in pursuing personal aggrandizement, his argument was anchored on the premise that since the government was already ridiculously rich from their wages, when they are in office, there was no need for them to indulge in (?illegal) actions to accumulate personal wealth. In the long run, Singapore actually might save money because the government officials are then in a position to choose the best projects at the best prices and not those which provide kickbacks in any form (of course, this assumes that government officials understand the market and are smart enough to assess then choose the best tenders).
He continued that ultimately the Singapore government’s actions can be reduced to this – to continually maintain power by appealing to the people (and whatever other possibly unfair political and legal means) with the ultimate aim to be the ONE to serve the population of Singapore.
What would be the flip-side?
The Singapore government does whatever it can to gain money and influence to maintain power and while in power only serves the interest of those supporters that had lend their influence and contributed to the personal coffers.
The conceit of this argument is the faith in the nobility of the ruling class and that the worst thirsts and hungers of human nature can be quenched and satisfied.
Basically, like my NS friend might say, the government ‘can fuck us twice’. Get high wages and still be corrupt.