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Sakmongkol ak 47

Monday 15 February 2010

Type A and B politicians. Reminder to UMNO

Suppose, we increase the salaries of our ministers many fold. Ministers by 600k a year, so on and so forth. Will the salary structure attract talented people into becoming politicians and into public service? The idea is: high pay attracts better talent and reduces corruption. You know the drill: you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Let's analyze this proposition a bit farther.

We all know that Singapore ministers earn astronomical salaries. The idea to compensate political leaders with high salaries was thought out by Lee Kuan Yew. His intention was to attract the best talents into public service. The attrition rate from 1st generation leaders was high. Many fell by the way side, succumbing to baneful influences.

How do you attract the next generation of leaders? He was concerned that, if left alone, the best talents would opt for business careers other than public service. So he indexed the salaries of ministers and political leaders in public service to a certain number of the highest salary earners in Singapore.

But public service isn't an attractive place for talented people. Government can't pay gargantuan salaries. That's public money. They can only pay reasonably high salaries, competitive enough to sufficiently attract talented individuals. On top of that, the Singapore elder leaders have still got to talent scout. The anecdotes about senior leaders conducting several levels of interviews are well known.

In Malaysia party elders don't talent scout. They are interested in setting up a self perpetuating system of leadership, i.e. perpetuating THEIR leadership. This is directly opposite the creation of a self continuing system which means, the show goes on even without you. The 'without you' qualification is the scary part to politicians. So, typically, the leader sets up a system that perpetuates his rule. His subordinates are under achievers and mostly second raters. They won't rock the same boat they are in and certainly won't go against those to whom they are beholden.

On the other hand, that typical response and behavior reveals a lot about the type of politicians you are. Which type do you belong to?

Politicians are of 2 types, types A and B. Type A are career politicians. Type B are people who have political careers. Type B are the ones who make hay while the sun shines, make money out of their office. Type B are those who want to establish a self perpetuating system. Types A are those who enter politics to make a difference to improve things and enjoy having power because it gives then avenue for application.

The high salaries didn't answer one question though- why did the political leaders enter public service in the first place? Was the main reason, high salaries? A talented person can earn more in the private sector. Tony Tan was earning much more with OCBC. Richard Hu earned more with Shell Singapore than from government. Never met Tony Tan, but when I first joined OCBC in 1980, Tony Tan was heading OCBC group I think. He was a 1st class graduate in physics I think. When I was in Shell, Richard Hu had just left Shell Singapore. That's why I am using the examples of these people.

How do you entice talented people into public service? By talented I mean with formidable academic achievements, sterling service record and all that. Bright people, articulate, possessing of verve, presence of mind, cool and collected. Earning high salaries remove anxieties, insecurities, even out the risks and help retain the talents brought in.

But there is one lingering question. If high salaries were the only consideration, the PAP senior leaders wouldn't have to talent scout would they? Talents will invariably come into public service, because they are attracted to high salaries.

High salaries do not necessarily lead to quality politicians. They are powerful motivators but do not explain the continuing presence of quality leaders. They stay until they are voted out or retire. So there must be other things besides high salaries that can explain the presence of talented people in public service.

Singapore makes a big deal about this thing called character. A leader must have character and they go all out identifying the elements that make the character of a leader. How do you attract politicians of character then?

To get to the answers, we ask the perennial question, who wants to be a politician and why? How do monetary incentives affect the quality of politicians? A simple interpretation of what Singapore did would suggest that if society offers better financial rewards to politicians, it will attract the best talents.

This interpretation would be a tad naive, because it over simplifies the issue. Politicians then become like tomatoes or any other fruits that money can buy. We get better quality tomatoes, or a better car, if only one is prepared to pay more for them. But the market for politicians differs from the market for tomatoes.


The fact may be that there are 2 types of people in politics. (1) Those who are career politicians, call them group A and (2) those who have political careers, group B. Group A (career politicians) are people who "live for" politics: they really care for a cause and/or they enjoy power. These guys only leave politics when they are voted out.

Group B people "live off" politics: they are there for the money and they leave politics when voted out or when outside opportunities (in business, consultancy, etc) are better. They are not necessarily bad. They have different priorities.

But public offices prefer those who believe in a cause. Society too benefits having people who believe in a cause. How do you set up a system to ensure that more type A politicians come in?

What motivates each group to join politics? Group A people enter politics because of the non-monetary rewards of being in office; group B people enter politics in order to increase their monetary rewards (when and after they leave politics).

So, coming back to our opening lines; what happens if, say, the salary of politicians were to be increased many folds? For a start, there will be more 'flimsy' politicians. But, the increase in the number of wannabees will come mainly from group B (those who live "off" politics).

Ideally, in a situation of perfect information (i.e. voters can perfectly ascertain the quality of politicians), as the pool of candidates is now larger, the average quality of elected politicians is bound to increase.

The problem, of course, is information asymmetry: initially, the quality of a politician is not well-known to voters, only revealing itself over time, if at all. Suppose that there are initially 100 candidates from each group and only 100 in total are elected. Maybe this takes place; with uninformed voters choosing pretty much randomly, there would be, on average, 50 chosen from group A and 50 from group B.

Suppose now that the salaries double and, as a result, there are now 100 candidates from group A and 150 from group B. Uniformed voters, choosing blindly, will now elect 40 from group A and 60 from group B. Higher financial rewards have then altered the types of politicians. Whether the average quality of politicians has gone up or not depends on the quality of the new people emanating from group B.  Quality can go down if the salary increase leads to too many low-quality group B entrants.

As time goes by, talent gets partially revealed. The next time voters go to the polling booth, they have a better picture of the incumbents. Some group B people, who will have revealed their talent, will now be offered better outside options (in consultancy, etc) and do not ask for another mandate. There is therefore some adverse selection at play: only the worse of group B stays.

Group A people stay put, as they are career politicians. And new entrants arrive, only to confuse voters. What impact would the doubling of salaries now have on the new set of politicians chosen by voters? Once again, it depends. Two opposing forces are at play here. On one hand, the higher salary of politicians means that more candidates from group B will stay (lessening the adverse selection effect). This has a positive impact on the quality of politicians.

At this juncture, we don't judge our choice of type A or B politicians. We just want high quality politicians. But we have to in the end and so we move on to the next stage.

What do these tell you? That if you leave it purely to market forces, or allow the free flow of natural selection, the talent you actually want, i.e. those who believe in a cause, will be overwhelmed by group B politicians.

So what do you do? You intercede. You set up a system of identifying talented and suitable candidates. You set up a system that supports a self continuing politics. UMNO must talent scout and must set into play, a system that favours those who believe in its cause.


Anonymous,  15 February 2010 at 22:43  

You are right. UMNO/BN must talent scout. So, Singapore government is correct. The jealous nyanyuk Mahathir says his LKY was wrong. Belajar lah sikit dari Singapura. Mereka dah maju manakala kita masih ????

The entire BN/UMNO cabinet is filled with riff raffs. They are as bad as they look. Muka roti canai ada, muka tembuk ada, muka monyet (Rais Yatim) pun ada...macam macam.

Pilih lah minister yang ada charisma, speak good English, with leadership quality barulah tak malu bila ada international event.

Kalau ikut apa yang Dato advise, semua ministers kena di pecat. Tak ada otak, tak ada cool look, tak ada leadership quality, cakap macam gangsters....tengok DPM tu.

Cukup lah.....jimat lah air liur ku.


Anonymous,  15 February 2010 at 23:57  

You have great views & suggestions on your blog... if only the people who matters actually pay attention...

walla 16 February 2010 at 00:18  

A clever post. Game theory applied to political leadership.

What's needed to be addressed first before constructing the interceding system?

One, back-against-the-wall. Singapore, Hongkong, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland. They all had that. Do or die. We don't have that. We live like tomorrow's already taken care of. Cradle to coffin. When oil is said to be running out, people scramble to say there's natural gas. When that goes, next will be said we have more sunshine and rain than others. When that goes, it will be said we have no tsunami's. As if not having something will put food on the table and brains between the ears.

The last GE served one effect; it unearthed a lot of things swept under the carpet for too long. And it closed the mouths of those who had been egging the rakyat to live in some limbo of denial about the true state of this nation.

Two, Sir Humphrey. There are too many of them in the civil service inasmuch the political ziggurats. Rub them up the wrong way and they will throw monkey wrenches into the best of plans and visions, sapping the energy that the best would have to expend beyond that needed to deliver world-class performance. Even in companies that abound in the bursa you know such nonsense happens everyday.

Singapore's political leadership had to be strong from the very beginning. That red dot started with a massive crisis. Save for a location and two ports, it had nothing going for it, everything going against it. If its leadership had been weak, that state would have caved in. They had no choice but to seize regional advantage in the beginning. Now their second generation leaders have seized global advantage, not that the island is free from significant challenges that will diminish its stature soon enough. The first generation left a legacy of achievement and a tradition of zero-compromise standards. The second generation leaders were moulded from a corp of the best-trained brains in the state to continue the same tradition of excellence by performance. Hefty compensation then had its rationale. It came after. Not like what we are trying to do which when you think of it is little different from paying hardship allowance to single second's in a dysfunctional family of indefinite parentage in a community of almost jurassic capability.

We don't have political excellence, tradition, standards, and culture. Which also explains why the GLCs are also not that savvy. Arguably, even the best in the private sector are not any better.

Three, the organizational ecosystem. There has to be something within an organization that automatically and naturally nurtures excellence, drive, performance, results, character.

walla 16 February 2010 at 00:18  

If we look at the caliber of our politicians and ceo's, better turn off and go do something else. How many of us can say with admiration that something said by any of them in the last thirty years has made us sit up and say, 'hey, that's smart'.


The first class hons that are the mustapa's and jj's of this country aren't helping one bit the state of their respective portfolio's.
Half the time, they are thinking how to exit with their reputation intact, not that there's any to start with. The other half they are looking o'er their shoulders to see if what they have said have ruffled the feathers of their special supporters.

Race, religion, and all those things debated until we have become laughing stock and socks are a complete waste of time, energy, resources and most importantly brains.

Since our education policy has denuded the brain pool for four decades at least, that situation so aforementioned is doubly compounded. We shot ourselves in both feet.

Let me be the first to make a kickass statement tonight.

We all gotta wake up once and for all and let go everything held too dearly for too long.

And if the rakyat are half as blind on the situation, yank all of them up. If they throw out politicians and sir humphrey's in the process, so be it.

We can't have the cake and eat it.

Progress is not another tall tower or another mall.

You have one tv channel where the newscaster worriedly says manufacturing investment is down 50 percent, and another tv channel where the newscaster smiles sweetly and says so and so many billions are invested. We are using bigger numbers to hide bigger problems, no?

....just trying to shoot an absent breeze tonite.

kuldeep 16 February 2010 at 00:50  

There's not enough quality people to go round..
Got to do some restructuring
Reduce the number of states (and MBs/Excos/Aduns)..5 MB pun dah same time merge parliamentary seats...cut overall to a third or max half.
Then obviously more money per head..and smart:dumb ratio improves cos of competition from the same talent pool.

And makes it so much easier for PM to choose his cabinet cos got less States to find his Ministers from.
Have one singular membership will make it even easier n smarter BUT thats a different story altogether,,,

Before you ask (in response to my suggestion)...i belajar sampai Form 5..and a little bit more.

Anonymous,  16 February 2010 at 01:06  

Hm... that's interesting. I guess the first thing UMNO needss to identify honestly and sincerely is "What exactly is its cause?" before it can even start on any of those things suggested in this article.

Anonymous,  16 February 2010 at 01:48  

Another honest and well thought write-up.

Took a liberty to study Indonesia cabinet ministers profiles after reading your article ;the land which many of us get our maids from, to expand the comparison.

1. Boediono (VP) - doctorate degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the Wharton School's 125 Influential People and Ideas in 2007. No direct political affiliation

2.Djoko Suyanto (Political, Law and Security Affairs) -was Commander-in-Chief of the National Armed Forces & one of Indonesia’s best fighter pilots. No political affiliation.

3.Ir. M. Hatta Rajasa (Economics) - was Minister for Transport & Minister for Research and Technology. A career politician.

4. Gamawan Fauzi (Home Affairs) - won the Bung Hatta Award for his efforts to battle corruption. No political affiliation.

5.Marty Natalegawa ( Foreign) - Educated in ANS, Cambridge,LSE. Career diplomat. No political affiliation

6. Purnomo Yusgiantoro (Defence) -an Indonesian Professional and Academician PHd. No political affiliation.

7.Sri Mulyani Indrawati (Finance) -Doctorate in economics US, was Executive Director of IMF,ranked by Forbes Magazine as the 23rd most powerful woman in the world. None political affiliation.

The readers can check this in Wikipedia and while doing this please cross check with Malaysian Cabinet Ministers credentials.

One thing for sure Dato, our neighbor Indonesia has started emulating Singapore to have professional and top class talents to lead the country. I have to assume they are not paid better than their Malaysian counter parts therefore no need to compare with S'pore ministers pay. Their motivations are quite puzzling.

Anyone wants to guess which country (Indonesia or Malaysia) will be leader in ultra modern era in next 10-20 years?

Anonymous,  16 February 2010 at 02:05  

But Dato', why only UMNO should do it? It should be the way forward for all political parties, right?


onthestreets 16 February 2010 at 05:58  

Good, though highly simplified, attempt at disecting a complex issue. You may need dynamic modeling to present more credible scenarios. (Go Wiki the thing).

BTW, what IS UMNO's cause? I mean, its TRUE cause. I bet a good portion of UMNO's leaders and members don't even know it. Then again, who cares, if one can line his/her pocket with RMs while he/she is at it.

kee 16 February 2010 at 07:22  

A good article which could have been an excellent article if it was not spoiled by the concluding sentence: "UMNO must talent scout and must set into play, a system that favours those who believe in its cause."

UMNO leaders after the last UMNO elections:-

Datuk Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak

Timbalan Presiden:
Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin

Naib Presiden:
1. Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi
2. Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein
3. Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal

Ahli Majlis Tertinggi:
1. Datuk Mustapa Mohamad
2. Datuk Noh Omar
3. Datuk Seri Musa Haji Aman
4. Datuk Azian Osman
5. Datuk Zainal Abidin Osman
6. Datuk Ir. Mohd Zin Mohamed
7. Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob
8. Datuk Seri Panglima Lajim Ukin
9. Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor
10. Dr. Mohd. Puad Zarkashi
11. Datuk Tajuddin Abdul Rahman
12. Datuk Idris Haron
13. Datuk Dr. Abd Latiff Ahmad
14. Datuk Seri Jamaludin Jarjis
15. Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah
16. Datuk Dr. Norraesah Mohamad
17. Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid
18. Datuk Ahmad Husni Md Hanadzlah
19. Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin
20. Datuk Bung Mokhtar Radin
21. Datuk Dr. Awang Adek Hussin
22. Datuk Seri Zulhasnan Rafique
23. Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek
24. Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh
25. Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim

Ketua Wanita Umno:
Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil

Ketua Pemuda UMNO:
khairy jamaluddin

Almost all, especially all those at the top of the food chain are clearly TYPE B politicians. Is it conceivable, or even possible, for TYPE B politicians to want to talent scout for TYPE A politicians for the purpose of succession to the food chain which those TYPE B politicians are now occupying and controlling? Especially if we take into account the fact the rare TYPE A politicians in UMNO are either being marginalised or had been expelled from the party.

Anonymous,  16 February 2010 at 07:54  

Dear Dato,
I do not see Malaysia capable of following Singapore. The University standard in Malaysia is a joke. You lower the entry qualification for bumiputra.
So where will the best come from?

You must get rid of NEP & affirmative action first, then you might get the best to join the civil service.

Get rid of the Ketuanan Melayu stuff. If this is true then prove to the world that you are ketuanan.

Here is the test:
Create a PC that costs less US$80 and more powerful than ACER or DELL. The PC world market today is worth US$200 billion.
Use your top bumi graduates to do it. Please do not laugh; this PC market is hugh and every country is working on it;except Malaysia.
You just wait to buy rather than produce; this typical of UMNO upbringing.


Voice of the Oppressed, Suppressed 16 February 2010 at 08:23  

Leaders need elan. When he speaks the people sit and listen with admiration at his intelligence.
Stoical he must be. He must have integrity, character and LOVE FOR THE COUNTRY.
Now tell me, which idiot in the Malaysian cabinet fit the above requirements.
They park their money elsewhere, their children study elsewhere, they seek medical treatment elsewhere and hold PR status elsewhere.
See how they pit one race against another. See how they dismantle law and order. See how they emasculate the Judiciary.
And see how they accumulate wealth.
These are the "Destructors" !!!

Anonymous,  16 February 2010 at 08:44  

30 years ago, I landed on the shores of indonesia, and was convince that the English administrator was the best the world ever had compare to the Dutch.

5 years ago , I look around Indonesia and Malaysia. Malaysia was going doing the route and Indonesia was struggling to find a path to emanulate Singapore.

Guess what? The infrastruture of Indonesia may not catch up with Malaysia yet but they will be in 20 years time, but the administration are already superior to that of Malaysia has got.

I ask myself why are we opening up for more uneducated scums which have no place in indonesia and transplant them into Malaysia.?

Mahathir ego is now backfiring in all cylinders.

Unknown 16 February 2010 at 10:26  


You are trying to tackle a subject which has posed a challenge to almost all establishments that is striving to excel.

In the end what really matters is the substance of UMNO's upper echelon. After all, they are supposed to be Mentors to those below them....

For example, shouldn't the political secretary to MNY follow the example of his Boss who is his mentor?

Look at all the "Mentors" in UMNO....Do you think that their followers will eventually become excellent political leaders?

Red Alfa 16 February 2010 at 11:44  


I like the nexus between this and your earlier posting.

You really have got going with this NEW MEDIA; for sure not anything going to be like the ever assinine MSMs to parrot only current order (nauseous and self serving) lines!...

The NEW MEDIA shall be partisan but like you, fearsomely critical and telling it so; who shall be the leaders we sorely need and whom we must reject, if Malaysia and our children must succeed in competitive times.

The NEW MEDIA shall be the arbiter in the selection for the next leaders... not the corruptible delegates, if I may be so forward with your view of what IT shall be, Dato'?

Anonymous,  16 February 2010 at 12:13  

First you must have a system where all ordinary people with talents are equally assessed with quality leadership and qualifications, in all employment public and private sector, those incompetent blokes who rise because of kinship, blood and political connection should be axed.

When there is a good system of this nature across the board,I should think leadership will become almost natural, and salary for the leader therefore follow the structure in which intelligent vis qualification determine salary.

ServiceB4Self,  16 February 2010 at 15:29  

I find that to be a career politician is not easy. The reality is that one still have to find means to support one's family. It would be extremely difficult for one to do so when 24/7 is spent politicking.

For someone who has developed a successful career or business, it would be difficult for that person to move to become a politician simply because once that person cease to concentrate on the career or business, the money stops. A responsible person would not make the move unless all his financial obligations have been taken into consideration.

Not many aspiring politicians who are successful in their own right is in the position of financial comfort no matter how much such person may want to contribute to or to lead the party.

I still feel that financial support must be there but at the same time, character is also important. More often than not, to rise within UMNO, one's principles are often challenged and most time expediency require such principles to be left to the wayside.

Young and beautiful,  16 February 2010 at 21:17  

Whoa, I thought only diabetes have Type A and Type B.
Rupanya Umnopun ada Type A dan Type B.
Barulah I tau sungguhpuh I masuk Umno tahun 1984 (tak berapa ingat) but my father yang bayar my membership fees.
Macam Anwar Ibrahim pulak.
Anyway I suka makan benda manis-manis.
So I suka Umnolah.
The best choice for Malays who are known for their sweetness.

remgold 16 February 2010 at 21:54  

an opinion: singapore still has to talent scout despite the yummy salary for ministers (sing1mil a year) and even an MP (sing16,000 a mth) becos there are too many rules for top public officers.
at least that's the word on the street - cannot mabuk in nightclubs, be seen cavorting with strange women, and the melayu ones cannot kawin dua (else kena drop). hahaha.
u can imagine that with these restrictions, better to stay in private companies if u're already making big money.

infamous stories of a PAP MP:
one of them years ago made a joke about indians in parliament - about going to serangoon and things suddenly become 'dark', or something along those line.
he was also reported to have made noise at spore immigration - something like why does it take too long to stamp my passport. do u know who i am?
he was dropped soon after.

Anonymous,  16 February 2010 at 22:29  


A bit too late isn't it for this reminder? UMNO is beyond redemption. Writings on the wall. Good luck nonetheless with your quest.


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