Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Much Is $10 Million?

The big news is that Lee Kuan Yew has pledged a personal donation of S$10 million to set up a Lee Kuan Yew Fund for Bilingualism to promote the learning of the mother tongue and English for preschoolers. This comes on the heels of Goh Chok Tong's speech at the Credit Suisse Philantropists Forum on 7 April 2011, when Goh made mention of the US$100 million from the family of the late Ng Teng Fong for setting up a fund for needy patients at a new hospital in Singapore. The Singapore government has an incentive for 2.5 times tax deduction for donations to Institutions of a Public Character.

It piques one's curiosity to ponder how generous is the gesture. Clues come from the contributions of his three children. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the highest compensated politician in the whole wide world, is donating $100,000. Second son Lee Hsien Yang, who used to pick up $4 million in a good year at Singtel, which he left mysteriously for a $1 million a year appointment as business consultant at Fraser and Neave (he is now chairman), is donating $50,000. Daughter Lee Wei Lin, who took over after the then-Director of the Singapore National Neuroscience Institute Dr Simon Shorvon was booted out (the British General Medical Council and British High Courts sided with Shorvon in his dispute with the Singapore Medical Council), is also donating $50,000. Except for Dr Lee, the paltry sum is probably only a fraction of their 13th month bonus. She had once said of her father's psyche: "The word charity did not sit well with him".  At a time when Singaporeans gained a reputation both at home and abroad for their eagerness to open their wallets to anyone in need (Nepalese twins, Yishun siblings, Huang Na kidnapping), daughter Lee blamed the press for its "propensity" to sensationalise stories that helped bring out "the gullibility of Singaporeans".

With the aforesaid in mind, so how much is the $10 million pledge worth? If he had intended to put Scrooge to shame, that could be 25 percent of his liquid assets. If he was a real skinflint, it could be 1 percent, which means he has at least $1,000 million in loose change. Even if the out-of-character largess was only 10 percent of his bank balance, it would imply that all those years of public service have earned him at least $100 million. Something must be wrong with the mathematics here.

BTW, don't buy the book "My Lifelong Challenge: Singapore's Bilingual Journey" thinking it will solve all your problems in acquiring a second language. This is what the author writes: "My big mistake... in the midst of our messy, massive exercise to revamp the education system, I realised I had been wrong in my premise (that anyone intelligent will be able to master languages)". Not everyone gets paid handsomely for making mistakes.


  1. We are confused as to the true meaning of charity. Is it given without expecting any favour in return? That what we have always been taught in school. But look at what Ng Teng Fong get in return for the $250M "charitable gift", he got a hospital named after him. So is Khoo Teck Puat. Despite protest from its citizen, the authority refused to provide a satisfactory explanation. Please ask the MOE to change the syllabus. Tell the kids charity is in reality an exchange to tax relieve and putting once name in an institution (or even MRT Station) so that people will remember you as long as the country exist. Something is not quite right, I believe!

  2. The Philanthropy of the Rich Does Have a Cost to Taxpayers

  3. Mahathir once said there are so many ways to skin a tiger.

    I suppose there are just as many equal ways to claw back what one has donated, in cash in the form of tax benefits or in kind like attempting to change other people's perception of one's shrewdness into that of a more kinder or gracious personality.

    Only God will know whether any of these donors, especially those more cunning ones, have this motive in mind.

  4. Leaving a name behind for posterity and or history may not be wise. When the move is suspected and if ones' deeds are suspected and doubted for integrity and benevolence.

    But some are hell bent on leaving behind a name as they know that even stinking ones like Hitler and Qing Shih Huang are remembered in curses.

    Anyway, what is charity when the money is made from the people?

  5. What exactly does a $10m bilingualism fund do exactly?
    Aren't preschoolers already getting bilingual classes/lessons?
    Or is it just an excuse to create more jobs for native chinese nationals who have been imported in large numbers to this island to help them educate and brainwash young minds with their native mandarin speaking accents?
    And again, does this bilingualism include malay or tamil/hindu languages other than chinese.
    Far more meaningful if he donate it to an ISA Fund where open enquiries can be set up for detainees , courtesy of him so that it's not at taxpayers expense.

  6. $100million peanuts to build his and his family names? I don't know what to say but one thing is certain, PAP policies have cost lives worth more than just that and he forgot how dearly people paid for their "stop-at-two" policies. Now the parents are suffering with influx of foreigners which LHL happily flood this island to make up for his father's shortfall in policies. When father and son are playing with this island and the people, the $100mil "gesture" seemed like virus only a heavy duty miscrope can detect. Only the Straits Times tried to make it sound like god gift to this cuntry.

  7. Using leegalised "stolen" money for charity to redempt themselves ? Please do not glorify robbers and traitors.

    Seriously how much of billions of state money under Lee's charge goes into their pocket ? No wonder our state account cannot be exposed and stand scrutiny.

  8. $10million, want or not? A typical singaporean, and many other nationalities, will take it.

  9. I guess this is in line with what Heng Swee Keat trying to say lah..
    No need to shout to the world you're worth 100m when you can get away with 10m when it comes to giving.
    HSK also says Individualism like "I'm worth it' should be avoided like a dandruff plague because it equals = self-centeredness.
    Looks like he needs an education to unlearn his understanding of what Individualistic really mean. As far as I know, it just means Independent critical thinking without following the sheeple and authority blindly. But perhaps that's exactly what he and his Party doesn't want.

  10. Well, Ayn Rand argued that there's no such thing as altruism. People, at minimum, do good things because it makes them feel good about themselves.

    Individualism works across a society if people value their own self-worth as a human being and values everyone else, also as a human being. When we stop valuing ourselves, we become a sacrifice on someone else's altar; when we stop valuing others, we start dehumanizing others on our own altars.

    I don't think that individualism, narcissism, and selfishness are always directly synonymous.

  11. I am interested to know how much he saved on estate taxes when his wife passed away. It was definitely not a small change.