No need to donate increment, just repudiate pay hike

April 12, 2007
Singapore Democrats

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Obviously unable to stomach the backlash from Singaporeans and the eyebrows raised by others around the world, PM Lee Hsien Loong has announced that he will donate his pay increment of S$600,000 a year.

Singaporeans should not be so easily placated – or fooled. If Mr Lee has no need of the extra money, why did he allow the pay-raise in the first place? If, on the other hand, he believes that the move is good for Singapore, then he should have stood his ground and defended his actions.

Obviously, it is impossible to justify the unjustifiable. The pay hike was a colossal misstep on the part of the Government, especially when there is overwhelming evidence that the economic situation of Singaporeans has been deteriorating in recent years. The PM is obviously now trying to undo, or at least limit, the damage.

However, Mr Lee’s move to increase his salary and then announce that he will donate it away seems such an unnecessary show. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to not increase salaries in the first instance?

And what are we to conclude if the other ministers don’t follow suit and donate their increments as well?

Singaporeans must not forget that even without the latest increase, Mr Lee and the entire cabinet are already way overpaid. The Singapore Democrats repeat our call for the PM and his ministers to revise their salaries downwards to less obscene levels.

At the same time, and in line with international democratic practice, ministers should declare their assets and the assets of their family members.

If fact, given the dismal economic situation that poor Singaporeans are being put through, Parliament should unequivocally repudiate any talk of salary increase and all MPs should forgo their increments and ensure that the funds are used to alleviate the suffering of the working poor.

It must never be forgotten that parliaments are institutions of service, not avarice.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party

Singapore PM to donate pay hike after salary furore
Reuters
11 Apr 07

Singapore’s prime minister said on Wednesday he would donate his S$600,000 ($395,800) pay rise for each of the next five years as he defended a 60 percent increase in ministers’ million-dollar salaries.

Lee Hsien Loong, who is set to earn S$3.1 million ($2.1 million) this year following this week’s pay rise – or five times U.S. President George Bush’s salary – told parliament he did not expect other ministers to donate their pay increases.

The government’s decision to jack up salaries for ministers and top civil servants – already among the highest-paid in the world – has brought criticism from ordinary Singaporeans, many of whom consider the move tactless given the widening rich-poor gap in the city-state.

“For five years, whatever the increase in salary above the present level, I will donate,” said Lee, who earned S$2.5 million ($1.65 million) previously, in parliament on Wednesday.

Lee said this would give him the moral standing to defend the move to raise ministers’ salaries.

The salaries of Singapore ministers were raised by about 60 percent to an average of S$1.9 million ($1.26 million) on Monday, just short of the S$2.2 million that the government had initially proposed.

The government said the move was necessary to attract and retain top talent. ($1=1.516 Singapore Dollar)