Thursday, January 5, 2012

Still Greedy As Ever

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had promised a salary review to ease public anger about the rapaciousness of his team's unquenchable greed, accepted a token 36 percent reduction in basic pay to $2.2 million (US$1.69 million).

Compare his (still) hefty slice of the public pie to:
US President Barack Obama - US$400,000 (pop. 311 million)
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy - US$300,277 (pop. 65 million)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel - US$246,750 (pop. 81 million)
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh - US$36,200 (pop. 1.2 billion)

On top of the basic pay, Lee and his cabinet members will be helping themselves to a "National Bonus" of up to three months' pay if targets are met on economic growth, employment and improvement in Singaporeans' incomes. Those performance targets were never published before, and more akin to shifting goal posts that were moved to suit their bonus expectations of the occasion. The new published targets pile on the financial rewards if, for instance real median income growth rate exceeds 0.5%. But if real income growth is negative, the ministers are not made any poorer.

In 2008, when the world was bracing for the financial meltdown, ministers were actually paid S$1,924,300 (S$2,055,100 with pension), the highest ever in the period of 2001 - 2011. Now, that's gotta be obscene in any language, English, Chinese, Malay or Indian.

Under the benchmarks unveiled, the salary of an entry-level cabinet minister is set at 60 percent of the median income of the 1,000 highest-earning Singaporean citizens (the names of which will probably never be published, like the previous 48 anonymous professionals) which works out at S$1.1 million (still more than what President Obama makes). Which means people like Lui Tuck Yew will not be embarrassed when clinking cocktail glasses with businessmen (who work hard for their money). And if any of the businessmen in their index pool gets wiped out in the market, they will find another set of well to do high earners to boost the median income of the 1,000 highest-earning Singaporean citizens. This is the crux of the system corruption - the public servants are still demanding private sector pay without the same levels of accountability and responsibility. Shops are flooded, trains are stopped in the tracks, and they just keep on collecting the cash. They have a rigged formula, and would not relinquish it. The same shenanigans are going on with the formulae for electrical tariff hikes, HDB pricing, healthcare subsidies, etc.

So how serious is the ministerial salary review? Gerard Ee's comment on the exercise is telling: "I immediately think of some of my friends that (might be) potentially considered (for the ministerial junket). Would they say outright, 'Don't kid me, $1.1 million, don't come and kachau me.' "

Deep in their heart of hearts, public service was never in the equation. These folks just want their pals and cronies to join in the feeding frenzy. Just like the Mafioso.


  1. Well, now we wait and see if any minister will quit because it is not worth their while to work for less money. If all of them are still hanging on, we can conclude that the cut is not deep enough.

  2. Frankly, why do our Ministers need to be paid any bonus (national, local or whatever) if they already earned more than the salaries of Obama + Hu Jin Tao + Najib combined ?

    Bonus are rewarded for squeezing more out of the people ?

    And now with their salaries cut, does it mean let us be warned that our PAP Ministers will be expected to be more corrupt and have less dignity ?

    What say you, PAP ?

  3. While it is not an entirely wrong thing to pay our ministers well enough, the old man got too greedy and asked for the sky. This entitlement mentailty sets in and passion/public service gets thrown out of the window. However, it is the political goodwill accumulated all these years by the PAP, which is priceless, that gets severely eroded and will take a long time to be restored. That coupled with a new generation of voters who experienced life differently from those of the post independence years will pose a big challenge. The pappies really shot themselves in the foot. They asked for it.

  4. Poor Singaporean1/05/2012 10:33 AM

    My pro-pappy family members reminded me that other countries may pay their ministers less but do we know how much they take on the side. I guess that's a good argument for million dollar salaries. My question then is how do we know well paid ministers don't do it?

  5. "but do we know how much they take on the side."
    Good question - time we check on the directorships and other freebies that come with the job. I know for a fact a certain ex-DPM who did not that have to pay for his SICC membership.

  6. The basic idea that ministers ought to be paid adequately is sound but when these ministers start to compare their salaries with top CEOs, this becomes questionable. Firstly, politicians must know serving the nation is a calling and not for the pay. It must come from their hearts. Personally I do not mind a non scholar become a minister because we have a solid civil service aparatus behind all ministries.

    You really do not need a person with a very high IQ to do the job. EQ and those who feel for the people could be a better choice.

  7. Pegging ministerial pay to top earners is simply wrong. What kind of talents are they trying to attract? People who would only work if the pay is attractive. People who would help to make the rich richer because in doing so, they get richer themselves.

    When the government said they have problems attracting talents into public service what are they trying to say? Money not enough, so it's difficult to attract talents. Are they are saying only top earners are talents and the rest are not? PAP government should really blame their own patriarchal rule and closed system for the dearth of talents.

    As it is now, the government will still be made up of 'talents' who would more likely work for the interest of their own kinds rather than the general public. Can we really say they are talents after witnessing all the recent blunders? It's an irony that high ministerial pay creates a problem (talent shortage) it's trying to solve.

  8. By pegging to the top 1,000 earners for that year, our ministers will receive a pay raise as long as the top 0.1% earners earned more income for that year regardless of the financial status of the majority 99.9% Singaporeans.

  9. We should benchmark ministerial salaries to the median income because the core role of government is to raise the livelihoods of the peoples.

    The ministers’ compensation cloud be 10 to 25 times the median income. This would be about $480,000 to $1.2 million annually.

  10. “Ministerial pay pegged to the top 1,000 Singaporean earners”

    Why, why, why. Our ministers’ performances are NOT based on the well-being of the majority 99.9% Singaporeans but the top 0.1% Singaporeans.

  11. Trying to benchmark civil servants' pay against private sector pay is an error itself, because public service and private service are 2 different things just like comparing apples and oranges.

    Private services are more self-enriching and economic-driven. Public services are more of driven by the aim to safeguard the welfare of the whole nation.

    The main problem with public unhappiness over ministers' salaries is that their recent performances don't justify their super scale salaries. The cost to the nation of such super scale salaries is that the government will have to behave like businessmen to be profit-driven in order to finance those ever rising salaries. You have already seen this in the way in asking you to pay high upfront costs to them before showing any results.

    Only Way To Stop This Is To 'Sack' Them Through Our Votes

  12. “Ministerial pay pegged to the median income of top 1,000 Singaporean earners less 40 per cent”

    We all know that no matter how bad is the economy, there is bound to have some people making a lot of money (or even more than the previous year) for that year.

    By pegging to the top 1,000 earners for that year, our ministers will be guaranteed to receive multi-million dollars salaries whether it is a good or bad year.

  13. Then Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said of the 2007 pay increase: “If we don’t do that, in the long term, the government system will slowly crumble and collapse.”

    After the pay cut, Prime Minister Lee (at US$1.7m) still earns four times more than US President Barack Obama (US400,000 a year) – and more than the combined salaries of (the leaders of) Britain, France and Germany.

  14. Then Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said of the 2007 pay increase: “If we don’t do that, in the long term, the government system will slowly crumble and collapse.”

    After the pay cut, Prime Minister Lee (at US$1.7m) still earns four times more than US President Barack Obama (US400,000 a year) – and more than the combined salaries of (the leaders of) Britain, France and Germany.

  15. The logic of politicians’ remuneration:

    You propose a formula for your own salary and present the proposal to the parliament for approval. You and your cronies have total control of the parliament. You know your proposal is definitely passed without meaningful debate.

    You propose salary formula for you and your cronies to base on a group of top earners who are mostly from GLCs and your cronies' companies. You also know that your controlled parliament will pass your proposed formula. Next thing you do is to get GLCs and your cronies' companies to pay the chief very very well. As such, your and your cronies' salary will be increased accordingly.

    After the people object to your proposal, you appoint one of your cronies to review the proposal and he recommend a revised proposal that you and your cronies (not the people) are happy about it. Then you present the revised proposal to the parliament again for approval. You know that all your cronies in the parliament will support the revised proposal because the revised proposal is for their own good. The parliament is still dominant by your cronies and the revised proposal will be approved without any question. 

    After the revised salary proposal is done, one of your cronies can say she suffer pay cut by joining politics. She claimed she could earn much more in 'private' sector. Look at what 'private' sector she has worked before joining politics. She has worked for few GLCs before invited to join politics. Are GLCs really 'private' sector? If she is right, those GLCs must have paid her very very high salary. This proves that if you have raised the GLCs chief salary this will actually effect higher salary for you and your cronies. 

    By controlling the corruption at lower levels, foreigners who do not know the details of this system will believe that a pro-business governance system is free of corruption. Is the system really corruption-free?

    Based on the logic, it proves that the current system is very very clever to ‘legalize’ corruption at the highest level. If not, what is it?

    You may look at the logics of GRC, NCMP and NMP. It is not difficult to understand the ultimate motive behind a fake democratic ‘feudal dynasty’ politics in action in a modern world.

  16. SN

    you are just asking for change in packaging.
    since you dislike such high pay.

    This is how the OZ pollies rake in.

    Source: Sydney Morning Herald

    HE IS said to be the most powerful man in NSW, the state’s “infrastructure tsar”.

    But the head of Infrastructure NSW, Nick Greiner, has cost taxpayers millions over the past 20 years because of entitlements given to former premiers who have served for at least four years.

    According to figures released by the Department of Premier and Cabinet as part of a freedom of information request, Mr Greiner has claimed the most in entitlements over the past three years. He is followed by Neville Wran and Bob Carr.

    Advertisement: Story continues below Barrie Unsworth, who was premier between 1986 and 1988, has been the most frugal, only claiming an entitlement for $384.61 in the 2009-10 financial year. Mr Unsworth said this was for hire car travel to official functions with the Turkish and Korean presidents.

    Figures show the entitlements of former premiers cost more than $5 million over three years.

    Kristina Keneally is the only former leader to receive nothing.

    In the past financial year, Mr Greiner claimed $588,532, most of which went towards staff salaries, a driver and his Macquarie Street office. He also spent $47,317 on ”other related costs”. Since 2008, he has claimed $1.83 million in entitlements from the government.

    In addition, he received $262,500 last year as chairman of the manufacturer Bradken, and has been chairman of The Nuance Group, QBE Insurance Group, Blue Star Print Group and Playup.

    In the same period, Mr Wran claimed less than Mr Greiner – $1.79 million – but in the past financial year he got $601,784.

    As a non-executive director of Cabcharge, a position he relinquished last year, Mr Wran earned $40,354 in 2011 and $96,850 in 2010 as well as acquiring hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of company shares during his tenure.

    The longest-serving premier, Bob Carr, who served for more than 10 years, comes in at third place, claiming $1.47 million over the same three-year period.

    He has also worked as a consultant to Macquarie Bank since retiring from politics.

    These three former premiers are the only ones who have claimed more than $1 million each in three years. The next most expensive is Morris Iemma, who held the job for three years and 33 days, and has claimed $314,996.

    The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, announced a review of the entitlement scheme of former premiers in October last year.

    His spokesman said the review has not yet been received.

    At the time of the announcement, Mr O’Farrell said: ”The premiers who receive the vast bulk of these benefits have secured other roles in the private sector where they’re well paid and probably don’t need the taxpayer to meet the cost of those services.”

    He also suggested premiers should be in office for more than five years before claiming any entitlements.

    According to documents released by the Premier’s Department, a ”long serving” premier is defined as one who has served four or more years in office.

    This entitles them to a car and driver on a full time basis, a car phone, a gold life pass for travel on all rail lines in Australia, free travel on State Transit for life, 12 first class return flights within Australia, and 12 return flights within the state.

    Their spouses are allowed two first class return interstate rail trips and seven first class return intrastate rail journeys each year, for every year of service as premier. They also have free air travel if they are travelling together.

    Long-serving premiers also get a home phone, an office, two full-time staff and free postage. All three former premiers were approached for comment but did not return phone calls.

    Read more:

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