Sunday, May 22, 2011

More Empty Promises

At the swearing-in ceremony last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, "Politics is not a job or a career promotion. It is a calling to serve the larger good of Singapore. But ministers should also be paid properly in order that Singapore can have a honest, competent leadership over the long term."

Compare that to what he told BBC journalist Jonathan Head in 2009:
"We go on a system which is open, honest, transparent. What is the job worth, what is the quality of person whom you want. You need the best people for the job and these are jobs where you make decisions which are worth billions of dollars. And you cannot do that if you’re pretending and you just say, well, we’re all in it for the love of king and country."

So is the guy suffering from schizophrenia or what? The answer seems to be blazoned on the latest TIME cover, 'What Makes Powerful Men Act Like Pigs." Save for the sex part, "Lies" and "Arrogance" fit the bill perfectly.

It's easy to debunk the "not a career promotion" boast. Just list the take home pay of the cabinet members, before and after being sworn in as ministers. Do a quick check of the ministers who have retired, is Yeo Cheow Tong still in the same income tax bracket? Will George Yeo find a similar paying job in the private sector within the next 6 months? - no cheating here, no GLC linked entities or any of the companies in the stable of Mrs PM Lee.

It is no comfort that Gerard Ee is named to head the committee for the review of ministerial salaries. He is also the Chairman of the despised Public Transport Council (PTC), the implementation tool of the Transport Minister, best exemplified in the 12 September 2006 blanket approval for local transport operators SBS Transit and SMRT to hike bus and train fares by 1.7%. During the run up to the GE 2011, when oil prices rose significantly, PTC was unnaturally quiet about fare hikes. This committee smells a lot like the one Wong Kan Seng created to look into the Mas Selamat escapade.

Ee himself has already set the tone for his task, "Whatever we work out, the final answer must include a substantial discount on comprable salaries in the private sector". These guys are still adamant on private sector pay but without private sector accountability. No wonder, look at what public service pay is like in the rest of the first world countries:
  • Donald Tsang Yum-Kuen - Hong Kong (S$716k)
  • Barack Obama - United States (S$555k)
  • Nicolas Sarkozy - France (S$441k)
  • Angela Merkel - Germany (S$420k)
  • Gordon Brown - UK (S$387k)
  • Taro Aso - Japan (S$337k)
Even if PM Lee takes an immediate 50% pay cut from his S$3.8 million, he will still be the highest paid public office holder on planet earth.


  1. The question here is IS USING HIGH SALARY TO ATTRACT people to serve in the government a POPULIST POLICY ?

  2. Agree. Even a 50% paycut is still substantial amount. And being small and precious is no excuse for "bigger" share of reward & risks. There are true leaders of the world who are responsible for even bigger million/billions of populations too. The problem with our current lot is that they think they are the "best hand-picked" and selected ones who can do the job, thus deserving the compensation. Until we wrench that out their stupid minds, this will continue. Because The kind of problems they have to face is hardly comparable to those other leaders..
    Another thing - we also need the expenses/bonuses/pensions to come clean. Alot of these are hidden and i'm sure is just a fudging number games.
    And to compare it with the top 5 professions? LEt's see which profession and why the picks...too many gerald Ee will have to make sure no stone unturned. Otherwise the whole exercise is just a farce.

  3. High salaries dont attract talent but rather help to keep ministers in line. Ministers will not challenge the status quo nor the power structure OPENLY if it means losing their big salaries.

  4. Let's say even if he gets a 50% cut in salary but say if his 'independent' board of directors decides to give his wife (remember at one time she was just as keen as WKS to resign from serving the people) a 10% increase from whatever her salary level + bonuses + additional share options. What do you think would be the net effect the husband and wife team would be getting as a whole ?

    As the other MM across the causeway has often said, there are many ways to skin the tiger. So would it surprise anyone that they may be just window dressing the whole issue just to made it more palatable to the public. Again the devil is in the details.

    Remember for clan and country clubs, people even fight in the courts to win the battle to become President. As for running our country, how can it not be for the money and power ?

  5. It's quite alright with me even with existing pay structure, just deliver and dont't screw up. If you do, please leave office and give up your post to a more deserving one. We shd be close to Utopia with current pay of ministers but unfortunately, some comparison with Ethopia is closer. Losing a GRC certainly brings egos of some MIWs closer to Earth, losing 2 might be better but that's another story.

  6. What was to be determined was " ministerial salaries". Nothing was mentioned about " ministerial compensation" !
    I used to laugh at how the Americans like to use 'big" words : eg : compensation / arrainged / perpetrator etc

    This is one case where, the scope of the committee need to be wider.
    Think of the "pension from age 55" , "performance bonus" and what else ?

  7. We have seen the millions that are "salary" and "pension", but have we seen the really big-ticket items, the "business interest"?

  8. it is strange that 'power' is not factored into remuneration. many people are drawn to particular jobs by the power they would wield.

    and then there are the perks that come with that power. few have the privilege to be able to tell their national airline to equip a plane as a hospital and come pick up the wife, who's sick, and bring her home for treatment. the very rich have to hire such transport privately

  9. I don't see how Gerard Ee is able to make salaries of PM Lee and his stooges less obscene, not when PM Lee alone can embarrass the leaders from 10 developed countries collectively.

    I have no doubt the top 30 highest paid politicians on the planet will still come from this tiny island after the so called review.

  10. The citizens should demand that the ministers release their tax returns every year. Then everyone can see how much money these people REALLY make. We will have to further update the income of the already highest paid politicians from this tiny island.

  11. What I really would like to see is a graph of the ministers' salaries over the past 20 years, to identify when the abuse first started, and how steep was the hike. People like Ngiam Tong Dow or Tan Cheng Bok should have the data, but why are they keeping quiet?

  12. Anonymous @ 7:43:

    The current system of benchmarking ministers' pay to 2/3 of the top 4 earners from six professional sectors was instituted in 1994. This was recommended in the "White Paper on Competitive Salaries for Competent and Honest Government”. Presumably the pay-rises began then.

    Data is otherwise scant, and there is little information on the web on how much the PM was earning prior to this (although this is should be overcome with some research with the ST microfilms of that era).

    Incidentally, ministerial salaries have long been a hot topic. By way of comparison, Wong Kan Seng, Minister of State for Community Development earned $216,000 a year in 1985. At that time, Ronald Reagan received US$250,000 a year (salary+expenses), which works out to about S$600,000. Funny how things have changed.

  13. Anon 8.03pm

    The flight was paid for in full by that power to be. To insinuate at this juncture shows more the thoughts of Anon rather than the subject.

  14. "The flight was paid for in full by that power to be"

    that power to be was old fart, am i not right?

    the offer to pay came about after it was brought up publicly, am i not right?

    do you have any idea who the CEO was then?

    the CEO said publicly he will send the bill but at no time did he emphasize 'no discount' will be given, am i not right?
    at no time the amount was mentioned, am i not right?
    do you have any clue what the amount should be? LOL

    by the way, it was small change if one has deep pockets with millions from conveyancing fees, am i not right?
    don't take my word for it, ask old fart himself, the familee's networth. LOL

  15. Busy and wealthy important men could be too busy to remember about their doings lah. Bought property did not know was given discount as though payment was done by others. Or might be discount was so insignificant to him, buyer was not bothered with it.