PHILLIP ANG: In 2011, PM Lee Hsien Loong said that Ministers should be paid “properly so that Singapore will have capable and committed leadership over the long term”. ‘Capable’ is defined as ‘having the ability, fitness, or quality necessary to do or achieve a specified thing’.
As far as ordinary citizens are concerned, our ministers’ achievements are:
– highest cost of public housing
– a broken pension system
– a record number of elderly citizens engaged in menial work
– reducing the number of hospital beds instead of an increase
– public transportation breaking down due to little maintenance
Are PAP politicians committed? Remove their million-dollar salaries and we will see their true colours.
In 1965, a minister was paid a monthly salary of $2,500. 45 years later, a minister’s monthly income (Grade MR4) had risen by 5,200% to $131,991 ($1,583,900 divide by 12 months). It was only after heavy election losses that the PAP reduced ministers’ salary to $1,100,000, translating into an increase of 3,600%.
In 1970, Lee Kuan Yew said it would “be impossible to attract men of integrity and ability to become ministers with the existing pay once the current ministers leave office”. Maybe Lee’s ‘ability’ referred to the ramping up of GDP only. In reality:
Huge increase in ministers’ salary = huge increase in the cost of living + decrease in the standard of living.
|YEAR||MONTHLY SALARY||INCREASE||% INCREASE|
With absolute control of Parliament, the PAP became very greedy. Five short years after our independence in 1965, PAP increased their ministers’ salary by 80%.
Dissatisfied with the 65% increase in 1981 and another 149% increase in 1989, Lee Kuan Yew suggested another idea to reward PAP ministers by benchmarking their salaries to the top 4 earners in 6 professions in the private sector. In 1994, ministers’ salary saw a 123% increase.
The PAP was not leading by example but only interested in paying themselves an increasing amount of tax dollars. Did the salary of ordinary citizens increase by a similar amount or even close to it? Singaporeans really don’t know what to say.
Lee also said that “Ministers’ pay will then go up or down with the private sector, and never get seriously out of line”. Questions:
– How to get even jokingly out of line when salaries are pegged to the top four bankers, accountants engineers, lawyers, etc.?
– Why are CEOs accountable but not our ministers, who are rotated to other ministries to try their luck with million-dollar salaries?
– Why are ministers rewarded with higher salaries for obvious failure?
Ministers’ salary continued in a race with HDB prices until a junior minister’s pay was $1.59 million in 2007! The PAP was not bothered despite an increasing housing price to income ratio since the 70’s.
Goh Chok Tong once told Singaporeans that “If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys for your ministers. The people will suffer, not the monkeys.” The reality is ministers are not paid peanuts but most would agree there are monkeys. And yes, the people are suffering, not the monkeys.
Let’s take a look at the 2001 cabinet ministers. What are the achievements of ministers like Mah Bow Tan (Gardens by the Bay?), Lim Boon Heng (?), Lim Swee Say (talking nonsense) Yeo Cheow Tong, Tony Tan, etc ? When we think really hard, there aren’t any because our ministers have been running our country as a large corporation profiting from citizens. The bottom line is their KPI, as confirmed by LKY who once asked “What’s wrong with collecting more money?”. The problems faced by ordinary citizens were sown by such ministers.
What about other ministers? Bet you can’t even remember their names.
Some friends have said that besides monkeys, there are also clowns. PAP’s policy of pegging ministers’ pay to the median salary of the top 1000 earners who are Singapore citizens is flawed, even if there was a 90% discount. It is a self-insulting policy to assume every minister would be able to command a million-dollar salary in the private sector.
To confirm the above, we could conduct this simple survey:
– How many think Lim Swee Say could have earned more than $1 million per year not as a PAP politician, keechiu?
– Those who think Wong Kan Seng could have become a CEO in the private sector, keechiu?
– Who believe Chan Chun Sing/Yaacob Ibrahim could have been a top earner in the private sector, keechiu?
Some survey participants will laugh, others will cry after laughing so hard but there will be no show of hands. From the epic screw ups, citizens are now aware that the PAP is not what it made itself out to be in the government-controlled media.
Ministers’ salary increase is at the whim of the PAP-controlled Parliament. Did low-wage income Singaporeans see their salary increased by a similar amount? The answer is clearly a ‘NO’ as evidenced by the increasing housing grants, WIS, etc. In fact, wages of the lower have stagnated at 1990’s level below $1,000. Is this the work of men of ability or monkeys?
PAP’s achievement – privatisation of public assets leading to soaring prices of necessities, the use CPF savings for public infrastructures and keeping their returns instead of distributing to CPF members, mandating increasing amounts of CPF Minimum Sum, now almost $200,000, selling HDB flats inclusive of land cost when flat buyers are only lessees, etc.
The capability of our ministers is questionable as our ‘growth’ model is based on population explosion. In 1994, our population was 3.419 million. This year, our population has increased by another 70,000 to 5.469 million. As can be seen, our growth model relies on population growth.
The addition of foreigners (comprising foreign workers, PRs and new citizens) increases the population density which leads to an increase in the value of land. Housing/real estate inflation is caused by this artificial demand created by PAP’s flawed immigration policy. (PAP cannot reverse course at this late stage and that’s the real reason for its 6.9 million target, possibly more) The increased demand results in an increase in the cost of goods and services. GDP rises and creates an illusion of a wealthy country.
In really wealthy countries like Norway, citizens do not spend time unproductively lambasting their governments. This happens only in a pseudo-wealthy country like Singapore. Having very high GDP per capita means nothing to 80% of Singaporeans.
The 3,600% in ministers’ salary has never been justified because PAP ministers have failed to deliver. From housing, public transportation, healthcare and education, the PAP have caused unnecessary hardship by privatising public resources. Is this the work of capable men who are not paid peanuts or monkeys?
This commentary was written by Phillip Ang.
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