HDB move baffling

Mellanie Hewlitt
Singapore Review
27 February 2003

It was only yesterday (26 Feb 2003) that the US (and the general public) was calling for greater transparency and accountability in management of GLCs and state owned entities, especially in regards to public funds. Dominance of GLCs is a worry for US firms, Lavin says US companies want greater transparency in S’pore govt procurement.

Latest management decision in HDB, the city-state’s Housing Development Board (a government body which provides public housing), confirm this need for transparancy and accountability.

Only in Singapore’s civil service bureaucracy will it ever be possible to retrench 2,700 workers, without having to actually lay-off a single person. The trick lies in a game of “musical chairs” wherein “retrenched workers” are transferred to another arm of the government, at same pay packets. And the icing on the cake is that they get to collect their retrenchment benefits on top of their existing pay packets. All this of cause is at the expense of tax dollars.

This concept of “musical chairs” has long been in practise amongst senior civil servants and politicians in Singapore who conveniently re-locate themselves between GLCs and State Runned Enterprises. It is already public knowledge that Singapre has the highest paid ministers and senior civil servants in the world. Indeed the Ruling Elite are at pains to keep the actual numbers of their obscene pay-packets from the eyes of the public. But this source of public embarrassment has been an open secret for many years.

With retrenchments and pay-cuts rampant all over the island, and the city state caught in the grips of a pro-longed recession, the latest move by HDB management can best be described as baffling.

It again relates back to an issue that has been avoided by the Ruling Elite;- the management of public funds. This is a significant issue as there is an estimated USD100 billion approx in foreign exchange reserves and public funds, which are at the beck and call of the PAP. And these are not subject to any known process of audit, disclosure or independent scrutiny/review.

1. Singapore
Prime Minister’s Basic Salary US$1,100,000 a year
Minister’s Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 a year

2. United States of America
President: US$200,000
Vice President: US$181,400
Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000

3. United Kingdom
Prime Minister: US$170,556
Ministers: US$146,299
Senior Civil Servants: US$262,438

4. Australia
Prime Minister: US$137,060
Deputy Prime Minister: US$111,439
Treasurer: US$102,682

5. Hong Kong
Chief Executive : US$416,615
Top Civil Servant: US$278,538
Financial Sec: US$315,077

Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000

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