27 May 2004
The double standards are glaring in the Straits Times. In a recent issue (25 May 2004, “It pays to be an MP in EU Parliament”) the local-government-managed daily saw fit to comment on the “perks” of being an MP in EU.
This same newspaper chose to be painfully silent when it comes to pay-packets and remuuneration scales of Singapore Ministers which easily exceed SGD1.5 million a year.
This is a perfect example of a burnt and carbon black pot calling the kettle (or Snow White?) black. To place things back in perspective and reveal the shocking discrepancies in remuneration scales between Singapore ministers and their international counter parts we append below extracts from a previous issue of Singapore Review:
The below table puts things back in proper perspective: (these are basic figures as of July 2000 and did not include last year’s pay hikes or other benefits. Otherwise the updated numbers may well be much larger)
1. Singapore Prime Minister’s Basic Salary US$1,100,000 (SGD1,958,000) a year Minister’s Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to SGD1,458,040) 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, 10 July 2000)
In relative terms, less then 20% of Singaporeans here have take home salaries exceeding SGD100,000/- A YEAR.
In stark contrast, BASIC SALARY FOR A MINISTER STARTS AT SGD1,166,844 A YEAR,OR JUST UNDER SGD100,000 A MONTH.
What these ministers earns in just ONE MONTH exceeds the ANNUAL TAKE HOME
salary of 80% of Singapore’s income earning population. Lets not even begin to compare annual packages which will exceed SGD1 million easily.
Said a long time forumer from an internet political chat group: “First of all the Ministers are NOT leading on pay cut. Workers’ salaries have been drastically reduced since the beginning of the recession while thousands have been unemployed. so the Ministers are NOT LEADING. They are only CATCHING UP. And they have several decades to catch up on.”
“Secondly, how much of a pay cut will Ministers take? 10%? 20%? unless its a cut that will affect their lifestyles, it is merely symbolic and they would still not know what it feels like to be a normal worker. As such, this is not leading by example. Its just another political propaganda stunt.”
A 29-yr-old executive who requested to remain anonymous admitted sheepishly: “The numbers (ministerial salaries) are a national embarrassment really, because it reflects the underlying materialistic value systems of Singapore Ministers. And these are supposed to be Singapore’s leaders, with value systems that Singaporeans should follow. It (the ministerial salaries) puts Singapore in a bad light in the eyes of the world. The rest of Singaporeans really put in an honest days work for every penny they earn. And the process for review and approval of the ministerial salaries is also a joke. Imagine sitting on the board and approving (on White Paper)your own salary increments! Its all a wayang show”.
It is evident that the general public have not accepted the rather flimsy excuses defending ministerial salaries. That minor detail too has not been elaborated by the Straits Times.
With such inflated figures, it is understandable why the local-government-controlled media (Singapore Press Holdings) have taken pains to exclude mention of actual numbers for the world to see. The numbers would be too glaring and no amount of window dressing or creative writing could have reconciled these numbers with a sane figure and restored credibility.
But it does not stop the Straits Times from commenting on the “perks” of MPs in the EU which are small pickings when compared to the million dollar salaries and life time tenures enjoyed by Singapore ministers.
Several political analysts have predicted that this was part of a strategy employed by the local government owned and managed daily to soften the masses in preparation for upcoming announcements of another pay hike for what are already obscene and grotesque ministerial salaries.