The Online Citizen

Answering the wrong question on ministerial salaries

January 06
07:38 2012

~by: Siew Kum Hong~

By now, the highlights of the report by the Committee to Review Ministerial Salaries should be well-known, so I won’t rehash them. A search on “singapore ministerial salaries” will quickly bring you up to speed.

There have always been two types of criticisms leveled at ministerial salaries. The first category comprised criticisms of the formula itself, that it led to distortions and did not achieve the outcomes we wanted. These are technical criticisms that implicitly endorsed the principle of pegging ministerial salaries at a discount to supposedly equivalent private-sector salaries.

The second category comprised criticisms of the absolute amount of ministerial salaries, which are seen as being excessive in their absolute amounts and completely out of touch with normal Singaporeans. These are political criticisms that will persist regardless of the formula used, because they stem from a fundamental perception that the absolute salaries are simply unjustifiably high, regardless of the formula used.

Well, here’s what I think: the Committee gave a good answer, but to the wrong question. The Committee’s recommendations will address the first type of criticisms, but will do nothing to stem the second.

I actually happen to think that within the limitations of its terms of reference, the Committee did a pretty good job. That’s because its terms of reference required (and perhaps limited) the Committee to “take into account salaries of comparable jobs in the private sector and also other reference points such as the general wage levels in Singapore”, and to implement “a significant discount to comparable private sector salaries to signify the value and ethos of political service.”

The Committee fixed a lot of the major flaws in the previous formula. For instance, by expanding the sample size of income earners from the top eight earners in six professions to simply the 1000 highest-income Singaporeans, the Committee effectively rendered irrelevant the problem of the 48 top earners being a changing cast while the ministers themselves did not change. Similarly, the new bonus structure is much improved on the previous simplistic reliance on GDP growth as a proxy for the good performance of the Government (and on that, I was reminded of this defence of the previous bonus structure by now-DPM Teo Chee Hean).

But I do think that the Committee was asked to answer the wrong question. The Committee’s terms of reference had already pre-supposed that fundamentally, the proper way to determine ministerial salaries was to compare with private-sector salaries (“how do we calculate ministerial salaries taking account private sector salaries and other guidelines”). In other words, the Committee was only being asked to answer the technical question of precisely how to calculate ministerial salaries based on private-sector salaries.

But to my mind, the question of ministerial salaries is actually a political one (“how do we determine ministerial salaries in a way that Singaporeans can and will support”). And so, we ended up with a technocrat’s answer to a technical question, when what we really needed was a political answer to a political question. Since we didn’t get that, the political criticisms I had referred to will almost certainly continue.

It is clear from the report, and subsequent public comments, that the Government, and the Committee, continue to think about ministerial salaries in terms of private-sector salaries and sacrifice by office-holders, especially financial sacrifice.

I think that is a completely incorrect approach to the question, which as I have said is a political one. This approach will never get true buy-in from the majority of Singaporeans, because they see the Government and ministers in completely different terms.

The Government and the Committee see public service as a sacrifice, as if it is some sort of burden or imposition. But I, and I suspect most Singaporeans, see public service as a calling, as an honour and a privilege. It is something to be proud of, and not something to bemoan and begrudge. That is what the spirit of public service is about.

The Government and the Committee also see private-sector jobs as being closely equivalent to ministerial posts, as if running a company is very similar to running a country. I think most Singaporeans disagree, because they instinctively understand that running a country is a political undertaking that is fundamentally different from running a company, requiring as it does political sensitivities and skills that are not always or usually needed for corporate success (and here, I am talking about popular politics, not office politics).

I do want to be clear: I don’t necessarily think that S$1m a year is excessive. I don’t know for sure what number would or should work, but it probably won’t be a small number. I do think that Singaporeans should be more mindful of wanting ministerial salaries that are so low, that only rich people will run for office. I also think Singaporeans should be careful about cutting salaries so much, that our office-holders become distracted from the all-consuming job of running the country by personal financial needs.

So that begs the question of how ministerial salaries should be set. Well, I think the starting point should be that we do not want money to drive ministerial aspirations, but at the same time we do not want ministers to have to worry about their personal finances.

One way to do this is to figure out what a reasonable salary for a minister would be, such that he/she can maintain a reasonable lifestyle. And by reasonable lifestyle, I would think that the salary should be enough to comfortably cover mortgage payments for a reasonably-priced landed property in a reasonable location; payments for 2 cars for the family; education for a minister’s children (including overseas education); some retirement savings; and so on.

This may or may not be a big number, but then at least it becomes more politically defensible in terms of this being what is necessary to allow the minister to do his/her job without undue distractions and while allowing the minister to maintain a reasonable standard of living. It also completely strips away the effects of the widening income gap, although it does become subject to changes in the cost of living. It represents an approach that can be explained to people and which people can instinctively understand (viz. the need to take care of one’s family).

Sadly, this is not the approach that has been adopted for Singapore. Which is why I think Singaporeans will continue to be dissatisfied with the level of ministerial salaries in Singapore.

The question of ministerial salaries is a critical one for Singapore. Not just for the obvious reason that it affects who enters into government (and who is attracted to join politics in the first place), but also for how it has severely poisoned political discourse in Singapore. Every time something bad happens, there will be people who will complain about how our highly-paid ministers had once against failed – whether or not this is justified. This cannot be a healthy state of affairs for Singapore.

The Government recognized this, hence the Committee. Unfortunately, I firmly believe that these latest changes will not suck all of the poison out of local politics. What a wasted opportunity.

This article first appeared on Siew Kum Hong’s blog. We thank him for allowing us to reproduce it here.

  • Robert Teh

    The assumptions behind the ministerial salary pegging to top earners in the private sector were already proven false over the past 14 years or so.

    Mr. Gerald Ee should have provided a list of ministers’ preexisting salaries prior to their ministerial appointments and a similar list of private-sector salaries of ex-ministers after their departure to validate the assumptions.

    Failing such a re-val…idation, it cannot be assumed that the linkage exists to justify continued writing of their own world’s highest iron ricebowl pay cheques which amounts to shortchanging the taxpayers. This is not to mention that over the past 14 years, 70% of lower income earners are not enjoying better living but only having to cope with more rising costs of living and unfair competitions from imported foreign labors a quick fix in solving economic structuring problems.

  • Please Do Not Kid Ourselves

    How many of the new political aspirants earn more than one million dollars before they join politics???do not forget, besides the ministerial pay, they still have the additional MP allowance which amount to close to another $200K per year.

    An educated guess will be new appointees like TSL, Josephine Teo, TCJ, CCS, LW, Sim Ann probably earn few hundred thousands per year before they join politics.

  • Mikael

    One million dollars a year??? The top politicians in Finland and Sweden, two of the least corrupt countries in the world, make about 200,000 SGD a year. The prime minister perhaps 350,000. One million sounds kind of excessive

  • RC

    I am in line with Siew on this. Right from day 1 when PM announced the committee and stated his TOR, I questioned his use of private sector as benchmark effectively telling the committee to do business BAU. Now that the recommendations are out, one thing that baffles me is that if the 40% discount is removed, wouldn’t the revised salary be actually higher than the status quo? This is the result of a flawed benchmark used.

    Suppose that benchmarking against private sector is indeed valid and proper, the other major flaw which Siew, or anyone else did not touch on is a “profession” benchmark. Face it, in the private sector, lawyers benchmark against lawyers and doctors likewise – no lawyer compares their salary against the likes of Susan Lim while. So applying a generic, profession-independent salary scale such as MR1/2/3/4 etc for all ministries is not apt in the spirit of private sector benchmarking. I would think the finance minister ought to be benchmarked against top 100 CFOs or something like that.

  • kf

    1 million is not too much but once we pay worldclass salaries compared to other countries, it’s reasonable to expect world class performance, stringent levels of accountability and an EXIT DOOR FOR NON-PERFORMANCE. Top-notch private sectors have a culture to instill performance, not how many dollars they make lesser as a sacrifice. Remember ? Many policy makers are supposed to be scholars, so please don’t give all scholars a bad name. Frankly, I don’t even understand why the writer suggested landed homes, 2 cars etc as benchmark when these criteria can make compensation extremely subjective.
    Unless this is Cocoon Singapore, stop the argument on performance tradeoffs because it’s world class salaries we are talking about. It has to be worldclass performance at EVERY LEVEL AND MINISTRY. If there’s no performance for the citizens’ lives, it doesn’t matter how much sacrifice in time, privacy, and finance they have made. This was how it worked in the private sector since time immemorial. I have always wondered why policy makers are willing to take so many hits on their salaries. I hope it’s not in the name of money even though performance is not there.
    I don’t know why it takes 7 months to come up with recommendation if this is the standard they are going after to finalise on a major issue.

  • Lee Ai See aka liao

    @Robert Teh

    But 1 important element in this whole equation is purposely ignored by many including TRE n TOC.

    That is, the 60% is the enabler of all these nonesense.

    I have been suffering under lhl leadership since 10 years ago.

    They kept changing the policies bad to me eg . Removing the door. Hiking their own salary not to a normal level but to an internationally insane absurd level for politicians surpassing that of world leaders from true 1st worlds our education, economy, everything depends on .

    The fu@&king root cause is not pap. They simply do what they have power to do. They are only the surface cause.

    The bloody root cause is the invisible but REAL humans real true blue citizens of sg.

    There are basically 2 groups of real citizens
    : 40%. And 60%.

    We are ideaologically separated by our VALUE SYSTEMS.

    My mission in life is to find ways to hold them ACCOUNTABLE.

  • Robert Teh

    The assumption made by the ministerial salary review committee that by paying higher pays we will attract better quality talent to solve problems has to be relooked at. This case – Liew Chee Meng’s cheating of S$61,825.00 of taxpayers’ monies in MHA) clearly showed that the home affair minister of the time has been sleeping on the job. The 8 years if million-dollar salaries paid to him obviously did not make a dent of difference in real life. It is just an assumption which has been proven false.

  • selfdestruct

    The obscene minister salaries beg the question: “Are they paid so high that they lose all sense of proportions and become so focused on preserving their status quo that they are willing to sell their soul?”

    In short, are they paid to be “YES MEN”?

  • Ah Gong

    Can the review committee members disclose if they are member of any political party, or linked in anyway via family, close friends to ruling party or any business relationship with GOV? Are they really independent?

  • Bathsheba

    Agree. They missed the point completely. Its not the formula but the benchmark.

  • Sim Mong Lee

    @Lee Ai See
    But you forgot to explain why 60% is root cause.

    They are bcos its been said that this is not yet a cuntry. Its a city.

    This means to me, the citizenry by and large are immature in terms of politics n demcracy.

    Only to these citizenry could their insane salary could have been approved without a challenge.

    The 40% are more mature in these aspects as they are the ones who know the necessity n importance of Questioning their insane practice n all fiascos. The 60% Accept and vote them.

    I very immature part of citizenry. To be fair some support for self interest reasons.

  • Robert Teh

    @Lee Ai See aka Liao

    Yes, it is important people stay united on the common platform. When all us citizens could do some simple act like rallying behind a common stand of refusing to accept lies and assumptions which were alreade proven false to all including the 60.1%, we will not be lost over minor technicalities, and we will move forward as a united people. Only then will the elites truly come down from their mighty ivory tower to serve the people with honesty and personal example. That is the day we all citizens want to see for the better.

  • Ray Wong

    Well written!

  • Conscience

    Blatant lies and ridiculous near-insane assumptions is not about politics at all.

    It goes far beyond mere politics per se. It is fundamentally about BASIC HUMAN
    GREED and OPPORTUNISM for selfish monetary gain.

    But thankfully, with the unforeseen benevolent evolution of open communication channels,
    namely the Internet, such previously ‘safe’ erroneous acts of human greed
    stand absolutely no chance of indefinite perpetuation.

  • BillyMa

    Money by far the most important motivator to the PAP office-holders though none is honest enough to admit it.
    This is a fact from the day lky told singaporeans that people will not join PAP if there is not enough money.

    And it’s a fact today.
    One after another, PAP ministers & MPs declaring that with this new pay scheme, fewer people will be keen to join PAP cabinet.

    It’s also a fact that PAP conduct this paycut exercise just so as to remain in absolute power after GE2016 & beyond.

    You can detect a very strong sense of bitterness & feelings of injustice from the words coming out of the PAP crowd.

    But at least 40% of singaporeans are not actually jumping with joys over this issue.

    In fact, we believe that once again this is another one of PAP political wayangs to fool singaporeans.

  • Ling SM

    It is very written piece, one of Siew’s best to me.

    I think majority still want the PAP to rule, and therefore trying their utmost to change a distorted formula that was given the benefits of doubts for so mnay ears and yet had proven totally flaw in all areas: (1) performance of candidates, (2) the abilities to attract, and (3) repelling good candidates away to opposition parties.

    PAP has shown their cards. If we still want them to rule, that is their asking price. Now it is up to the Singaporean to decide 4-5 years down the road, if they still remember, and not sway by the pre-GE AngPao. And many people on this forum, if you do not want to be blackmailed, there are many things to prepare and to do.

  • Sgt33

    Here we are talking about 1$ million salaries for the pappies.
    We can’t even settle down to a minimun wage for the men in the streets. All sorts of excuses came up, yet with this salary review, they gave all sorts of formula. What crap is this?
    Remember VB was bitching about a $30 increase for those on social assistence some time ago, against the recommandations by MP Lily

  • Seriously

    High salaries to justify keeping corruption at bay is akin to saying we all have low moral compass and will become greedy and corrupt.

    Isn’t Singapore known for it’s efficiency and legal system? We can always put in all the checks and balances (tighten some), can’t we?

    PAP says they hire the best people for civil service. If a Minister’s corrupt, are you saying they are too stupid to notice? They won’t do the right thing and be a whistle blower? If they don’t, it then suggest that there is ‘in-breeding’?

  • Chris Lim

    A politically acceptable solution is to peg politician’s salary heavily to the lower income group by a multiple whilst at the same time capped to the higher income group with some discount, to signify the value and ethos of public service.

    The variation in pay structure should be wide enough for the politician to share the plight when things are not going well and the fruits when things are better. The cap is a safeguard against a formula going wrong which the review committee failed to incorporate except to call for another review in 5 long years!

  • ben

    If you check carefully, most of the candidates are linked to their family who worked for someone in the dynasty.

    I think like TSL, he was GM in DHL, I dont think he made $1M a year and he sacrificed his pay to be a minister.

    Most of the politicians are linked to someone and put in position to consolidate power.

    If you look carefully, all the old guards are being sacrificed in the last GE to make way for new blood because the old man want more control and support for his son.

    Politics in SG is also dynastic and not transparent, same as China Vietnam etc.

  • son of singapore

    STOP. We need a fresh review of Ministerial salaries.
    The Review Committee has excluded Ministerial salaries worldwide as comparable evidence, deliberately.
    This is done either on their own volition or in accordance with Lee Hsien Loong’s Terms of Reference.
    This exclusion of the most salient evidence of the price of Ministerial services worldwide, renders the whole review exercise worthless and most ominously misleading, with intention to cheat the citizenry.
    LHS or the Committee has purposely limited the scope of the investigations in order to cheat the citizenry.
    They have omitted to look at the most natural source of comparison which is Ministerial salaries in other countries worldwide.
    The Review Committee’s finding is a big irrelevant exercise.

    Yes. The Review Committee has been set on the wrong question. The Review should done again. This time the terms of reference should include an examination of how much office holders are paid even in the foremost countries of the World.

  • son of singapore

    A junior Minister in the Parliament of Singapore earns more than the top human being presiding over the top Superpower of the World.

    My dear Lee Hsien Loong, what does this mean?

    And your own salary is at least fivefold more than the top man in the top country.

    My dear PM, what does this mean?

  • Simon

    I support the call for Ms Grace Fu to disclose her pay when she was in PSA and her pay as PAP minister,this issue was raised by her and she should have the moral courage to close it.

  • Robert Teh

    Our talent has no idea to understand simple thing like stealing people’s monies with falsehoods and wrongful assumptions is a crime.

  • Jaded

    “So that begs the question of how ministerial salaries should be set. Well, I think the starting point should be that we do not want money to drive ministerial aspirations, but at the same time we do not want ministers to have to worry about their personal finances”

    What worry? How many directorships each person has is not disclosed and each directorship can “pay as little as $10000″. How much money do they need to concentrate on being an MP?

  • omnitaufoo

    $1m is still a lot of money. We certainly are not paying peanuts. Yet we are stil getting monkeys who have no political savvy, cant think on their feet, and can’t see the forest from the trees! That’s really the bigger issue.

    Some ministers can’t even make a politically sensible statement without provoking the sensitivities of the populace.

    If $1million dollars a year to a Minister is deemed to be threat to their standard of living, Singaporeans must be fools to slog for pittance just so that incompetent Ministers can continue to enjoy the fruits of the collective effort. Singaporeans will gladly pay the price for the best of talent. What we are getting increasingly is a bunch of pedigree academics whose competence and lack of accountability in government and governance is truly truly appalling!

  • mr potato head

    this has to be the most objective piece on the ministerial salary so far. great piece!

  • KMT

    Would it be better if the government allow ministers or MPs to say so if they are not happy with the pay cut? At least we know who are in there for the money and who are not.

  • Robert Teh

    Having once taken drug like opium, ministers and MPs would become addicted. How to expect them to kick the habit and suffer from non-stop bouts of depressions and withdrawal syndrome?

  • Disgraceful

    I think Grace Fu was the one announcing to the whole world that she suffered a pay cut. Perhaps she should come out and reveal how much she was paid previously as CFO or CEO of PSA(SEA) Division. As an Minister cum MP, she should be handsomely rewarded by $1.8 million previously? So does it mean she make more than $2 million at PSA? She needs to justify her “sacrifice”.

  • GFK

    I don’t agree with what this Siew Kum Hong is saying. Reasonable lifestyle means landed property in good location, 2 cars each and send children overseas education?

    Goodness me. Singapore education really CMI and lowly huh? That’s why Ministers must send their children overseas. What a good example.

    “And by reasonable lifestyle, I would think that the salary should be enough to comfortably cover mortgage payments for a reasonably-priced landed property in a reasonable location; payments for 2 cars for the family; education for a minister’s children (including overseas education); some retirement savings; and so on.

  • kf

    This salary review is 1 of the key phases, of not the central one, that will set the entire stage of GE2016. My view is for policy makers do relook at the entire scale. This is the kind of scale that will generate a great amount of public outcry and verbal abuse on policy makers should anything go wrong under their watch now.
    We know there are still bad performers around. Are they still going to earn their millions for 5 years as if they are pet stuff/ staff, pun intended ? This is what happens when policy makers are unwilling to weed them out, and has to be seen doing it involuntarily. In the true private sector, the performance grade of anyone is never evaluated only over 5 years. And if the candidate cannot raise the performance to the next level of the existing team, he’ll be dropped.

  • Dannielle

    Actually, the obvious question still hovers…

    The $MILLION salaries for Ministers have been instituted for more than 10 yrs, and since its inception, WHO ARE THE SO-CALLED “TALENTED” MINISTERS that have been recruited from TRULY PRIVATE SECTOR.

    What we’ve seen are only own “kakis” uprooted from their equally high-paying GLC, Temasick-Linked companies to be office bearers.

  • oldfashioned

    No matter the quantum we need people who care for Singaporeans and Singapore instead of putting themselves first. As it is, we seem to have a bunch of not particularly outstanding people toeing the party line, making the best of their status and enjoying their perks to the hilt. Don’t forget some have had children educated on scholarships (govt and private foundations). Some have offspring well placed in jobs. Surely networking played a part? In which event it’s not the salary but the position that gave them the contacts so that their children’s merits could be brought to light . Therefore serving the people has other benefits.

  • kumaran

    I remenber about 18 years ago i work as a cleaner partime and the salary i recevie was $750.Now when i ask my company cleaners about their salaries some of them are receiving $750.What is happening and how are these people going to live with these country’s expenses so high.

  • Kall Geez

    Nice article from Mr Siew who got the arguments and sentiments spot on. To reconcile the dilemma here maybe we can look at two points.

    1) this govt wants to attract talent in their prime to join govt
    2) there is a small Singaporean talent pool suitable and willing to run for public office (how many Chen Show Maos do we have?)

    High salary is one way to attract people. More impt is an upright and honourable public service that talent want to be associated with.

  • leehsientow

    Nothing has been settled whatsoever by this salary review. It was merely an overdue correction of an unacceptable and unsustainable inequality. A suffering public could not see what the previous President had done or achieved to justify his mullti-million dollar salary. Neither could they see what outstanding qualities our current lot of ministers possess which make them superior to ministers in other developed countries.

  • Fed up

    Really frustrated with the repeating fallacy and hidden facts that the review committee labours under.

    1) Ministers and politicians here can wield immense power that goes beyond any private sector salary. They have insider information, access to influential resources and contacts, etc, that are worth much much more than than base salary they earn.

    2) Who decreed to the review committee, the “holy truth” that people who have the talent to be good people-oriented politicians are the people who are tops in their field or who are scholars???

    3) Where did we get the idea that top political talent are only motivated by money? Where are the facts to back this up, against the constant anecdotal evidence that some of the best in private industry have often forsaken their corporate lives to run businesses that appeal to their heart?

    4) If the shallow myopic way we define talent is inextricably linked to financial gain, then all the more, such talent will realise the incredibly immense payback of political connexions that extend well beyond mere monetary rewards.

    5) As history has shown time and again, some of the most successful CEOs and so-called “talents” of private industry and governmentment worldwide have succumbed to greed, abuse of power, poor judgement, poor character grain, and even criminal intent. Why can’t we seek political talent from more humble pools of people instead of sticking to elitist search mechanisms? What vein of politicians will we be stuck with, if we stick to searching among elistist circles?

    6) It’s been said that we need obscenely high salaries in our politicians in order to prevent or at least make corruption less attractive. This was a hallmark in the early days, but it is an anachronism in a country that has already enshrined a continual mechanism that legalises corruption and detects overt non-sanctioned corruption.

    7) Even if we ignore the world salary benchmarks set by politicians of economies that are hundreds of times larger than Sg, we cannot brush off the fact that LKY’s unmitigated elitist ideologies have been proven unacceptable in today’s world. Obscenely high salaries are by definition, in the order of hundreds of percent excessive, so cutting them by 40% doesn’t even reduce obscenity to elitist overindulgence.

  • Alvin

    从前的“贪官”是“贪污的官”;现今的“贪官”是“贪心的官” — 一样的可恶!

  • WhyWhyWhy?

    One woodern man once said : “you pay peanut and you will get monkey” Hence the out-of-this world salary for Ministers.

    I say “Now we had paid Coconut (i.e. a nut much larger that peanut), we end up with donkeys (a bigger “key”). what an ASS.”

  • Cutmore
  • son of singapore

    We are not aware that the Terms of Reference of the Review Committee constrains them to look only at comparable private sector jobs. This is a most elementary mistake or a trick foisted on the citizenry. Globalization means that the value of any work has a global figure. What price is a MP, a Minister, a President, a civil engineer, a chartered accountant, a medical doctor, a gormet cook, an optician, a prostitute, a priest, a pimp, a goat? They all have their market prices in the global arena.
    No wonder many western politicians around the world have expressed the wish to practise in Singapore. “No hope guys. Parliament does not admit foreign talents. Parliament is only for the PAP. The WP at Aljunied is a mistake which will be put right,” may say a PAP spokesman.

  • WHAT is It ?

    The Right Answer, AND the Right Question – Not here, Not there – IT is Chen Sho Mao.
    He gave Up a Very Lucrative SALARY that is MANY MANY more times THAN as an AGRC MP.

    The Right Question Is – What is Tin Pei Ling doing to deserve $13,000 or $15,000 per month to tumpang GCT?

    The WRONG Answer – Singaporeans too SMART ???

  • http://Website(optional) iworkhardsometimes

    quote: “I would think that the salary should be enough to comfortably cover mortgage payments for a reasonably-priced landed property in a reasonable location; payments for 2 cars for the family;”

    i disagree with Mr Siew on this, pegging ministerial pay to material goods they consume if not a good idea.


    1) material goods change in price.
    2) a government of the day can influence the change in price of the goods in question.

    therefore if we peg part of the salary to 2 cars and 1 landed property, if one day, unfortunately, a rogue government comes into power, they will be tempted to inflate prices of land properties and cars via policy measures.

    then when this happens, they have a case to revise their own salaries UPWARDS.

  • http://Website(optional) iworkhardsometimes

    it is therefore a bad idea to link a person’s salary to [something] whereby the value of this [something] can be easily changed by the person in question.

    wrong carrots produce the wrong results.

  • http://Website(optional) iworkhardsometimes

    on a side note, why landed property? is it disgraceful for a Minister to live in a mass market condo? or is it about the space?

    well, allow me to quote a famous verse from the CEO of HDB – Dr Cheong Koon Hean:

    “In many global cities of the world or big cities, people do pay attention to how they do the inside of the flat as well as optimising the use of furniture and storage. It can be a very comfortable living environment,”

    as we can see from the reasoning above, it is not the absolute space that counts, even if a mass market condo is not as big as a landed property, if a Minister can optimise the use of furniture and storage, it can be very comfortable living environment as well.

    i am not saying Ministers must live in condos or HDB but those who propose that Ministers have to live in landed property as a minimum acceptable standard better be able to make a good case to justify why that is the case.

  • Hasar Husir

    The late noble-man Dr.Ee Peng Liang was known as Mr.Charity.Unfortunately,his son Gerard Ee had sold his soul for personal interest.

  • Misdiagnosed

    @Siew Kum Hong:
    “But I do think that the Committee was asked to answer the wrong question. The Committee’s terms of reference had already pre-supposed that fundamentally, the proper way to determine ministerial salaries was to compare with private-sector salaries ….”
    Well articulated piece and also correctly diagnosed the core of the problem. What the government failed to see also is that the current private sector practice of remuneration for senior management has brought big gains for the senior management of companies but at the expense of the shop floor managers and workers.
    The current private sector reward system for senior management has actually encouraged short term self serving behaviours of senior executives (Board, CEOs, CFOs. COOs etc)driven by greed. Workers are laid off even as companies attained historically high profits so that the CEOs can continue to enjoy even higher bonuses the next year. Such reward systems of the last 15 – 20years have contributed in no small measure to the stagnant income for the 90+% of the workforce, higher unemployment and the historical income gap within the developed economies. The average citizen in Singapore is subjected daily to such unjust system of remuneration and likewise income growth has been near non existent for the large majority of the workers.
    The government, instead of championing the well being of the population against such abuse and injustices, is now seen as part of this unjust system by identifying and rewarding itself as the top 0.03% of the senior management staff in the private sector. I think this is unfortunate because it speaks volumes about the government’s inability to comprehend what the cries of the population since the last election is all about. There is a definite lack of political acument here and I agree with the writer that it is not about the amount of salary per se! It is about who and what you are serving?

  • johnny chiam

    why don they use the world prime minister as benchmark? rather than using private sector. Isn’t this is more
    right &correct. just compare apple to apple.

  • Piggy

    Read this

    Is about High COE pay VS performance and High COE VS average empolyee pay doesn’t it sounds like “High Minister pay VS Performance” and “High Minister pay average singapore citizen pay” If this country is a corporation.

  • oxygen

    Given the TOR, I am wondering in my mind this – could the committee have thrown in the towel and demanded as a condition of participation for an independent mind thoughts of the committee.

    SKH is absolutely right on this one – a wasted opportunity hanging on to “life-and-death” endearment to flawed past formula and political baggage of failed policy.

  • Ya

    In public sector, already got one top civil servant taken 3 months uninterrupted leaves for his expensive french cooking course. In private sector, you will be told not to come back to work after that.

    In public sector, the working hours are usually shorter due to snack break, tea break and whatever break. In private sector, if you are late from lunch by 5 minutes, the boss will scream foul.

    Not to mention are our ministers really so hardworking? They could probably be resting at home during office hours.

  • KMT

    @Robert Teh,

    Your reference to the cheating case in MHA, you forget the case about the escape of Mas Selamat. The buck don’t stop at the Minister but those at the bottom.

  • Skeptic

    I think some skepticism and resentment do arise from what people eg. “friends” and “colleagues” of the office bearers, say … if a Minister is the best man for the job, I think people will say, yeah, pay him to make him keep the job. Maybe it’s because some of these people are not up to mark, and are ridiculed in the private sector!

    I think Tharman is a very good Minister. I think he deserves the salary for the work he does. I think Khaw Boon Wan gets the job done and is a sincere man.

    Who else?

  • Chanel

    “….from the top eight earners in six professions to simply the 1000 highest-income Singaporeans, the Committee effectively rendered irrelevant the problem of the 48 top earners being a changing cast while the ministers themselves did not change.”

    Kum Hong,

    This is wrong. The top 1,000 earners will remain a “changing cast”. The serious flaw of survivorship bias remains with the new formula.

    In fact, the new formula may be worse as the top 1,000 earners will now be likely to be concentrated in very few categories (eg. CEOs, top investment bankers)

  • Steve Goh

    Article in ST truly stated that few in corporate world really draw over a million dollar salaries. In the past despite astronomical salaries paid to ministers, pappies still encounter difficulties in recruiting best calibre candidates – now as can be seen, most of so-called elite ministers are from the army . Why is there drought of candidates from private sector ? This only confirm that in reality, pappies policy of using money to buy over the best minds in SG is wrong ! Our ministers are still the highest paid in the world despite the so-called drastic salary cuts !

  • My Humble Opinion

    My take of the ministerial pay review is that is it purely a political act to allow the PAP to solidify their ground especially among the 60% that still voted for them. The quantum of the reduction is carefully calibrated to fine-balance between the need to provide attractive monetary compensation for their political appointees and the urgency to show compromise and empathy after the GE2011 aftermath.

    In the hearts of LHL and his colleagues, I do not think they consider themselves overpaid even with the previous package. LHL need to dangle carrots in front of his team to glue them together, that is the brutal truth. They may not be in it totally for the money but monetary considerations are certainly a big part of the equation as what Grace Fu had succintly illustrated on behalf of her colleagues.

    In simple terms, you push for a mile, I yield an yard. So, the political tussle goes on. If you observe the way they handle the PA issue with the WP, it basically unfold in the same way ie gave in a little bit when they were whacked very hard by the opponent with public opinion not on their side.

    To really force the PAP to make for more concrete changes, I think merely an Aljunied may not be enough. More GRCs may have to fall for that to happen.


  • Crap

    The PAP govt is very sneaky indeed. The Terms of Reference handed to the Committee effectively tied the Committee members’ hands behind their back. The Committee cannot recommend doing away with the pegging to private sector pay.

    An opposition party once suggested pegging ministerial salary to the pay of govt leaders in other developed countries. This is a very good idea. How on Earth can our ministers, managing a tiny red dot, be a few times more than the US President or PM of the UK, or PM of Australia???

  • simon

    Yes,Steve,you are right,PAP mostly attracted people from civil service,GLCs and the SAF.

    So PM Lee would now face a real problem,as many senior officers from these three groups would face salary deduction if they join PAP.

  • iVOTExiaoBENG

    Skeptic6 January 2012

    I think Tharman is a very good Minister. I think he deserves the salary for the work he does. I think Khaw Boon Wan gets the job done and is a sincere man.

    you THINK too much
    do you THINK you can bed the nus prom queen?
    (a phrase from THE Rock)
    do your THINKIN when you are in the jumbuan doin your crap

  • Johnny

    Good article. The only issue is the grey areas when it comes to quantifying “reasonable standard of living”. A landed bungalow at Yishun versus one at Steven Road.. Kids’ education at Harvard versus Curtin.. 2 Toyota Camrys versus 2 Bentleys.. The list goes on forever.

  • cannon

    the ‘crux’ of the matter here is really not about HIGH MINISTERIAL PAY,it is about low income or ‘NEGATIVE’ income of common sgporeans at large.

    even if our ministes are th best paid,so what?

    as long as INCOME EQUALITY is practised here and there is MORE sensible INCOME DIVIDE that is acceptable,sgporeans will not be so small-hearted like our elites, such as LIM SWEE SAY,to quibble over it.

    get the idea?

  • busybody

    Siew Kum Hong fails to elaborate that the technical and political part of the mistakes were intentional or accidental. Let me put it to you that these people are not stupid and they are fully aware of what they are doing or who they trying to deceive.

    The TRE a reliable source for political openness which dare to bare the whole truth without munching their words. They simply call it “WAYANG!!”.

  • Bay_song

    Too bad that the best people who knows how to run the country are busy sitting behind the keyboard and let their fingers do the running.

  • Nyancatsaysyes

    Not to be pedantic but it really should be “Raises the question”, not begs the question? No fallacy detected, though singapore minister pay can be argued as a fallacy in itself.

  • James Koh

    LKY and his proteges had all along defended that we must pay top dollars for the best talents. What actually constitute best talent? Is it the successful CEO who made lots of money or the scholar who score high mark in the academic fraternity?
    Recent incidents had shown that the years of paying top dollars did not stamp off the flooding in Singapore, congestion in the MRT, under providing of the housing needs and the avalanche of foreign talents etc.
    Defensively, the Government consoled itself as doing for the economic good of the nations ( and perhaps themselves.
    There is certainly some re-think needed here.

  • Cao Da Ji Pai

    Cao Da Ji Pai sez: OK, so our Glorious Leaders have voluntarily slashed their pay from Astronomical levels to Obscene levels. A trend is developing! If in GE2015 they lose MORE votes then maybe they would further slash their pay from Obscene levels to merely Incredible levels. Frens, Sinkies and Fellow Cunterymen, we are sooo freaking doomed, you know. WTF, the pay of Putin, Obama, Wen Jiabao and Manmohan Singh who together rule 65% of humanity added together is LESS than that of our PM who rules a little red dot, more a small city than a proper cuntery. How did we end up in this shitty unspeakable predicament? ARE WE GETTING OUR MONEY’S WORTH? I am dumbstruck speechless by the sheer incredible obscenity of it all. Its clear where we got our National Values from: Wall Street the Movie! GREED IS GOOD, MONEY NEVER SLEEPS!!!

  • ed

    as usual, we the simple singaporean of naggers.
    nothing better to do but wasting time bullshitting with all kind of argument.

  • Benny Boo

    AS usual, whiners aplenty, whatever the outcome.

  • Think Hard

    Despite the astronomical ministerial salaries, the “top gun” from the private sector did not join the ruling party at the last election. Do you think they would want to join a party whose leader is dictatorial and who says ” you can have access to any appointments if you work hard except the post of PM”. Tell me, which top men in the private sector will join the ruling party just to become the Minister of Home Affairs or the Minister of Environment? He wants to be the Prime Minster, for goodness sake. And he wants freedom of expression, for goodness sake, and not “kow tow” to a dictator.

    So unless the PM is prepared to allow his post to be contested in an open election where the citizens decide the leader as is the case of US, France and many other countries, no top men from the private sector will join the ruling party. It is not just the money. It is about giving the top men in the private sector a shot at the PM post that matters. As I see it, selfishness of the PM and the MM to cling on to their PM post is the root cause of the problem. Whoever said that LKY or LSH is the best man for the job? One other thought. Will Teo Chee Hean, for example, canvass for someone better than him in the private sector to join the ruling party and threaten his rich rice bowl?

    The mind boggles.

  • Let U Know


    In MOH, KBW did not increase a single hospital bed for ten years despite the mass influx!

    KBW “claim” in the ST that he need only to fork out $8 for his bypass surgery without mentioning the full cost!

    Be careful what you wish for, he may be a wolf in disguise!

  • Ah-gua

    Hui ge Alamak is better than Cow in my opinion. At least he made me laugh on TV.

  • kampong boy

    Father: son, what do you want to do when you grow up?

    Son: I want to earn a million dollar salary.

    Father: what will you do to earn that?

    Son: to be a cabinet minister in Singapore.

    Father: wow! I am very proud of you, son. So you want to help Singaporeans improve their livelihood.

    Son: oh, you mean I have to do that?

  • Quanxi

    LKY feb 24th 1966 ,Tangling CitizensConsultative committee:
    “Our citizens are shareholders.We must look after our company.Otherwise it will go bankrupt .If anybody outside wants to be a shareholder,he will hv to wait 10 years becoming one n every Singaporean is really an owner of assets n reserves”
    If we are shareholders why all the smokescreen on ministerial increases benchmark against top earners n not median income of say 100,000 citizens–statistically it is easy to compute.
    Are we really the owners if GIC continue to raid our CPF without our knowledge?Even OTC died as President without any knowledge ?
    If we are shareholders n owners,why reap off such astronomical salaries for Ministers last 10 years?And if we disagree with PAP core policies you will ISA us?We are unwilling slaves of the Leefamilies.

  • outsider

    No. Now anybody outside can become our shareholder within 6 mths instead if 10yrs?

  • aangyongguan

    why, we all keep forgeting a big component of minister take home pay is from bonus and performance bonus which dont even need to declared. What is the net annual pay must be declared and be transparent. There should be nothing to hide

  • Somethingtohide

    Minister minimum pay $1 100 000 per mth
    Worker mininmum pay not even $1 100 per mth

  • Somethingtohide

    Minister min pay $1 100 000 per annum
    Worker min pay not even $1 100 per mth

  • Quitter

    Are you suggesting that ministers must live in landed property, drive 2 cars etc? Isn’t this materialistic to the core?

    U should be upright, not paid to be upright

    You dun pay a thief not to steal, nor do u pay a minister not to be corrupt

  • Saw

    chiak pa liao chiak buay liao resign

  • iVOTExiaoBENG

    ed 6 January 2012
    as usual, we the simple singaporean of naggers.
    nothing better to do but wasting time bullshitting with all kind of argument.

    Benny Boo 6 January 2012
    AS usual, whiners aplenty, whatever the outcome.

    and YOU got somethinggie better to do?
    why not make love with your wife?
    cork 1/2 dead perhaps?
    ow bout benny boo? why don’t you proxy him to be your replacement stud?
    you TWO think aliked..same ip address as well…you TWO a couple perhaps?

  • Harry Jiak Liao Bee

    I agree about where the 60% are from.

    We should push for downsizing of the regulars. These are contented as they have a steady income n secure rice bowl. More secure and iron a rice bowl than elsewhere.

    Why they dun look for jobs paying hundreds of thousands?

    I suspect they can survive in private sector since they so tip top talented.

  • Ruled by Self Interest there is weak SOLIDARITY

    Many citizens put self interest all things.

    This means no Solidarity.

    In the face of the world record insane salaries n extreme influx, most Accept out of self interest.

  • We’re Singaporeans!

    It all starts from the top and in this case with regard to the Ministerial Salaries it is the PM to be blamed! Like his father(like son like father) they are too stuck with money. In any issue, whether be it transport, medical, education, etc the solution for them is money! It’s “no money no talk”

    I think we have enough of this stuff. It’s always the poorer people who suffers under the PAP rule! Could you imagine a PAP Transport Minister in the 1990s said that $100,000 COE for cars was affordable!!

  • KMT

    The Prime Minister has said that the government intend to accept the recommendation. Is he saying this on behalf of all PAP political holders? Obviously there is already at least one that showing some form of displeasure over her pay cut. The coming parliament sitting should allow anyone who is not happy about the pay cut to speak out.

  • sal

    @Quitter 6 January 2012

    ‘You dun pay a thief not to steal, nor do u pay a minister not to be corrupt’


    i really can’t stand this kind of warped logic from the papies.

    basing on their logic, singapore can be the first crime-free country in the world just by paying every worker 10 times more wages of the world’s average for every profession.

  • Be Contented

    I am satisfied with the review. The public feels the pay is too high, so a review has been done and a substantial cut has been made. For those who keep complaining it is too high, no amount will satisfy them. Why are we always clamoring for as low a salary as possible? It’s not easy for the private sector to attract and retain talent, let alone the public sector. Being a politician is a tough job, where you have to sacrifice family life, privacy and you may not get the appreciation and respect due to as a politician (especially in our political climate today).

  • jz

    it is pap’s prob if they can’t attract gd talent to join politics and they should stop using exorbitant salaries as an excuse for this. if the opposition can find and field candidates with gd qualifications and the right attitude to serve the public, why is it that pap can’t do so?
    that is the qn singaporeans need to ask themselves in 2016

  • K Das

    This is a good critical piece of writing by Mr. Siew Kum Hong

    I share his larger sentiment that good Ministers should be paid a good realistic salary. I see most of our Ministers as very able, farsighted and prodigiously hardworking (see how fast they age). They are of high integrity and I suspect, scrupulously clean too. Personally I do not mind them being paid 2, 3 or 4 million. But the problem is that all their fine personal, professional and management qualities fail them somewhat when it comes to taking care of the livelihood and welfare of the low wage earners and the poor. Food vouchers and free handouts for which the underclass has often to beg and queue is no solution. In this area you need to set higher KPIs for the Ministers to perform and deliver. They have to ensure that in 2-3 years time the lowly paid Singaporean worker gets at least $1200 to 1,500 salary failing which the Ministers should subject themselves to nominal salary and national bonus cuts as mark of indictment to reflect their failure to achieve the set target.

    What are the reasons for life being tough for a good majority of average Singaporeans – a condition of plight and anxiety – which the Govt only came to realize when some 40% of the people voted against the ruling PAP and make them lose a GRC to the WP? The Govt has to switch gear and it appears it is beginning to, and the acceptance of pay reduction for office-holders is a significant step forward.

    When you bring in profit-minded corporate people – whether from private or public sectors – into the cabinet and into the entire network of agencies that manage and run the national economy, corporate culture is bound to infect governance to the detriment of ordinary people. You cannot and should not apply corporate culture tools of seeking profits and rationalizing charging of fees to the public on a cost recovery basis to important services related to health care, education, public housing and transport. Talking about health care, I sustained an eye injury in UK few years back and I was rushed to a public hospital where I was treated with 2 follow-up appointments. I am a foreigner and I was not charged a penny. 1-2 years before that I caught flu and high fever in Cameron Highlands and went to a government clinic there where the doctor treated me with cough mixture and tablets. I was not charged at all. It was all free (I honestly do not know what the present practice is in UK and Malaysia is). Just last week I met an Indian foreign worker and he told me this story: He injured his hand when his right hand last finger got caught in the power machine he was operating to cut steel bars whist avoiding falling debris. His employer paid for the initial 3-4 treatments he received from the Govt hospital and polyclinics. Thereafter the finger swelled again causing him pain but the employer told him he has to foot his own bill. He went to NUH and for consultation and dressing and he was told he has to pay $95. When he told the staff he had insufficient money with him then, he was told that the condition of his finger was not critical and that he should come back the following day with the money, which he accordingly did by raising the money which he borrowed from his countrymen working here.

    A well meaning Sr Minister of State used to say often that “we don’t go to bed every day thinking how to mess up your lives”. Ministers don’t but their policies often do exactly that. I know of 2 spinster sisters in their mid 70’s who took care of their 90 year old mother until she died 2-3 years back. All 3 suffered from chronic illnesses and they had to foot the hospital and polyclinic bills with some subsidy from the Govt. They were leading a humble and simple life in their 3 room flat in Toa Payoh, when the Govt acquired the block en bloc for re-development. They were compensated and given a 4 room flat of their choice at nearby new block. The family paid the full amount upfront for the new flat from the compensation received. They had some funds in hand to carry on with their lives but soon the fund started running low and they had no choice but to down grade to a 3 room flat which they purchased from the open market. They again paid up fully for it as they were unemployed for long and they feared being burdened with paying monthly installments for the flat every month as they had no source of income. The mother died 2-3 months after they shifted to the 3 room flat. The illness of one of the sisters got worse with frequent visits for treatment at SGH and Tan Tock Seng hospitals. The sisters had a tidy small sum as balance in their joint account and on this basis the medical counselors told that the sisters have to foot the major portion of all medical bills until their savings ran out. They are ultra conservative and very much cherished their privacy. Their saving again started running out and they were pushed to renting a room to a foreigner for survival. Their current medical bills run to a substantial sum every month and their once placid life has been really messed up by government policy.

  • Crux Of The Matter

    It is perhaps timely to question again whether such a miniscule city as this is so extremely difficut to manage and administer that it requires extraordinary super-humans being paid jaw-droppingly high salaries to be in charge.

    Obviously not. On the contrary, the city’s natural strategic location in commerce already ‘guaranteed’ its success, regardless of which political party manages it. Good people must be given a fair chance to show their mettle too. After all, it is not as if one party replaces the other, but rather, they complement each other with constructive ideas from either side.

    And we have recently witnessed at first hand how mundanely ordinary, error-prone and even silly, leaders can be, notwithstanding their insanely high salaries, the latter of which will undoubtedly cause leaders the world over to cringe in embarassment and an awkward sense of inferiority.

    If our top leader is paid even the same salary as the USA president, it may not even be acceptable to most, since managing a vast continent with a huge population is a far far more collosal and complex undertaking than managing a miniscule dot no bigger than a full stop on the map.

    That such bizarrely high ministerial salaries continue to be practised is itself a grotesquely bizarre fact in this modern and enlightened world.

  • arthur

    actually, the idea of a salary that would be palatable to the top 1000 sgreans is in itself, dare i say, a great idea. what it means is simply that we would like the best in spore to be our leaders.

    the prob is, at least half of the cabinet is not spore’s top 1000, don’t know whether got top 10,000 or not. former army chief (chan chun sing) and rear admirals (lui tuck yew) if retire only become insurance salesman wat.

    but then you have ppl like ng eng heng, heng sweet kiat (former sgx md) who earned more than a million bucks before joining. objectively, these ministers are real talent and i would like to pay them well.

    i think pegging it to top 2000 is better but not to avg sporeans medium wage. you’ll only get a while bunch of sdp types stepping forward and that’s not what we want as leaders. the reality is that someone in the top 2000 can contribute to the country in many ways, and becoming a minister is a very extreme step.

  • BK


  • Lee mui hoong

    The panel looks like civil servants.

  • Singapore Sucks.

    These people devise a scheme and formulate a basis of calculation to construct the end result they want.

    Singapore IS really corrupted.

  • oxygen

    @ K Das

    You posted some interesting comments….touching on the poverty detachment in society and the seeming lack of connect from our political leadership of their plight.

    You also mentioned of your generosity on the question of ministerial pay – this INTEREST ME from a risk-return paradigm.

    Just wondering if you would share (only if you like and no compulsion of you to respond) this hypothetical thought with me and this forum.

    If you are a good caring responsible father and your son had hit his 18th birthday of legal age to visit a race course, would you bring him there to enjoy a few sessions for a good learning experience?

    I swore by high heaven I certainly would! My reason is this – I want to educate him the harsh realities of life -the “hot favourite” seldom made it first past the finishing line, and if it did, the payout ratio is so meagre of unattractiveness of risk-betting.

    To me, it is the same of business and political risks. The dark horse unknown almost always show up much better of performance in the race to success. If the dark horse does not participate, betting on the favourite with such a huge big bet is a risky proposition – in analogy over-generous ministerial pay when there is no connect to society’s betterment.

    I would rather bet smaller on a dark horse and wins real big and my RISKS ARE SMALLER because if you look at Melbourne Cup race, it is the outside of favourite wins most of the races.

    And it is the same of exploration geology of looking for the next biggest gold, copper, nickel or oil and gas find. The simple reason being – the familiar easy to explore ground have already been tested and barren of big discovery.


  • Lee Kim Yong son of lee

    Those who are not Ultruistic in Serving the Public must be f&^%$ked out of office with immediate effect!

  • Leopard’s Foreskin never changes its spots

    The only thing we need to focus on is Are any or All of these pap related in 1 way , the other way or some ways if not that way or else way?

  • rockabye baby

    Please remember this for life about PAP’s version on income. As when GCT as PM mooted the 8 top earners in 6 professions to benchmark ministers’ salaries, didn’t he and IRAS have to ay least peak into those 8 guys’ income tax return’s? And LHL as Pm once said too that private top income is over $4 Million! See the confusion in their use of the English Language. Otherwise or deliberate? from salry to income but never publicly use their inner word of RENUMERATION?

    It is NOT salaries but RENMERATIONS folk!

    LHL had said that his pay is only around $120,000 a month!
    And so the total income at even up to 36 months a year is by PADDING up with bonus ++++ till has to be call RENUMERATIONS! Check the Oxford Dictionary and IRAS to understand the meanings of salry and renumeration and you will understand better and why!

  • Gold Fish

    I don’t really think it is very important how much we pay ministers or MPs. The amounts talked about are certainly affordable for Singapore as a rich country. What is important is we put them in Parliament to do their job, which is to govern Singapore well and improve the lives of Singaporeans. For me a good Govt means it creates the condition for peace and security in the country, allow me to have a roof over my head, hold a reasonable job, my children get a good education, I have time for recreation and keep some savings for old age. I certainly don’t like flooding in Orchard Rd or SMRT breakdowns but these are not the most important things.

    Many netizens are unhappy with the Committee’s recommendations. But from the comments made it seems whatever recommendation the Committee might make will also not be acceptable. So the real issue is not with the Committee but with the PAP Govt. Many netizens just doesn’t like the PAP Govt for various reasons so they find every excuse to whack them. Salary, flood, SMRT or DBS also the fault of the PAP Govt. Some want to sack the PAP Govt and have the opposition parties form the next Govt. This is OK and part of the democratic process if the majority wants it. However, the problem is so far we have not seen how the opposition parties can do better than the PAP in providing Singaporeans with a good government. Are the opposition politicians people of integrity and good quality who are driven by their sense of public service? If they are we can vote for them to form the next Govt in 2016. But we don’t really know? They criticise and promise a lot. But can they deliver peace and security, give me a good job and housing and a reasonably comfortable life in Singapore. I hope the opposition politicians can start showing us what they can do if they form the next Govt. Don’t worry about fixing floods or SMRT. These are small irritants. Tell us the big things how you will keep our state of peace and quiet in this world and improve our lives in Singapore. Show us you have a team of better men and women compared to the PAP ministers. If you do that I will vote for you.

    I guess many people are angry with the PAP Govt for becoming arrogant and shoving their solutions down our throats without much explaination. PAP just say don’t ask too much, trust me and take this bitter medicine. But people nowadays are not so compliant (ironically, this is thanks to the PAP Govt for giving the people the chance to be better educated and with spare time to indulge in politics instead of concentrating on survival). Singaporeans want to be consulted and feel they have control. In this area the PAP is certainly lacking. But PM has promised they will change. We have to see what happens.

    If we react too quickly in anger we may regret it.

  • Bo Bian

    When they compare their income with the top earners, of course they feel discontented. Why should they work as CEO and earn less than other CEOs? Some more their job is more difficult.

    The committee proposes the minimum pay for a minister as 40% discount of the medium earning of 1000 top earners. That means the medium income of the 1000 top earners is 1.833 million dollars. There are about 500 top earners earn more that figure. I have doubt on the figure. For transparant reason, would the govt show the statistics?

  • The Pariah

    However, we must nail down the “How”, “What” and “Why” to brass tacks and NOT just paint with broad brush strokes.

    The Review Committee’s Report embeds some core flaws. There is also spin in it if you analyse it carefully.

    Rather than “teach” the yaya-PAPayas by being specific in our criticisms and suggestions, it’s better to wait for the Parliamentary debate on this Report.

  • Robert Teh

    Lim Biow Chuan, you claimed in your post that Ms Saw need not resign and people are at fault for her resignation. Please tell us so far have we a government that is truly transparent and accountable? For example, is the ridiculously incompetent prison security resulting in the Mas Selamat escape,forgivable? What have our leaders and MPs done? Show us is the inactions of PUB to feedback since 1990s… from Lucky Plaza management pointing out the Stamford Canal inadequacy to prevent the Orchard Road flooding forgivable? As a MP, let me ask you is not the voting for higher pays for all the wannabes clambering to be paid the top earners’ salaries not a form of legalized corruptions and their appointing of unqualified people like Ms Saw not some form of cronyism ? Is this system not aimed at exploiting citizens for the MPs and ministers’ own greeds? As a talent do you not represent the people and do something to check on such abuses and lack of transparency and accountability in government?

  • NoToTwo

    @Lee Ai See Aka Liao

    I am one of the 60% you conveniently accused of doing whatever it is you think we are trying to pull off.

    But you are angry at your own circumstances in life and so I can understand your angry words.

    However, you surely know the path Singapore goes down if one side of the electorate is played against another. No one side wins, only the politicians win.

    For what it is worth, I will say that Singapore is not a basketcase. You will tend to forget that fact seeing the amount of “group hugging” that goes on in comment sections of this website.

    We are asking for policy tweaks, not whole-sale changes.

    Let go about that in a proper manner, and not act like the stupid Americans who talk about politics like it is a sport without real consequences.

  • Pingback: Answering the wrong question on ministerial salaries  |  The Temasek Reveal

  • K Das

    @ Oxygen

    Thanks for the opportunity you have given for me to respond. I find your analogy linking national politics with horse racing rather amusing but interesting. I will comment on some points you have raised in this context.

    Like you, I too would love to take my son to horseracing to enjoy it in a fun way. More importantly it is also to educate him on the perils of gambling and that there are dark forces at play often working at cross purposes to fix races. There are gambling syndicates, owners, trainers and jockeys who stand to gain financially from hidden hands in arranging for a fixed outcome of a race which requires for specific horse(s) to lose for another to win. It is better for him to learn all these from the horse’s mouth (father’s) than from ‘outsiders’! He will also learn to know which horse will win before the race and why it did not precisely, after the race thus becoming increasingly wiser.

    Ministers are also like horses (pardon the pun Ministers!). When they enter politics and become a Minister for the first time, they are ‘outsiders’, and some, even ‘rank outsiders’. Three four years in office, they become ‘favourites’. One or two even get ‘withdrawn’ later because they have become ‘unfit’. Sometimes it can be the ‘pedigree’, the genes, DNA or whatever, that determines the quality. When Singapore was separated from Malaysia, Dr Goh Keng Swee and S Rajaretnam became Defense and Foreign Minister respectively overnight. I suppose they knew sweet little about their portfolios. But over time what a fantastic Minister they turned out to be – a case of ‘rank outsider’ becoming ‘hot favourite’

    We should not begrudge top dollar (meaning reasonably high) for a top Minister who shows ample empathy and feel for the common man. Good Ministers are not cheap and cheap Ministers are not that good. The sooner we learn this home truth, the better it will be for Singaporeans and Singapore.

  • NS men don’t get universal healthcare but we have to die for these Millionaire Ministers!!!

    They are still paying themelves millionaire lifestyles. This sickens me when my hdb flat has to be painted every 6 years instead of being tiled in the first place.

    It sickens me to see their greed. I just hate their screwed leadership. Sickening.

  • Rodolfo

    So many sound arguments have been put forward in favour of benchmarking with other Governments and to ordinary Singaporeans.

    We also ask that public leaders be selfless and somewhat reject outright materialism. Looking at the way people are, I think it is a bit too much to ask. If we push things to the point where top public sector salaries are too far from what these people might realistially earn in the private sector, we may backslide significantly.

    In addition to Mr Ee’s proposals, I would suggest that the PM be given the authority to do the following – to ask top private sector professionals and executives into Government and apply a 40% cut based on the average pay of the preceding 5 years. This is even if it amounts to $3M to $5M.

  • Shamugoo

    Hi NS Men,

    Ask Grace Fu how much should risking your lives be compensated.

    Maybe she got an answer or 2.

    She so smart right?

  • iVOTExiaoBENG

    In addition to Mr Ee’s proposals, I would suggest that the PM be given the authority to do the following –
    isn’t the primeister been doin lately from father thru uncle via son
    who give them the minimum $100,000 mandate?
    are YOU brainDEAD?

  • oxygen

    @ K Das


    You are a good responsible father, I bet! LOL. Your son will quickly learn horse-racing is a dirty game.

    I certainly agree with you that Raja and Goh are “dark” but good horses coming in from the outside chances.LOL.

    But unlike you with an overly perhaps ministerial pay blank cheque, I will bet heavily on a ranked wildcat oil well in petroleum geology analogy especially near someone’s moderate-sized discovery. A ranked wildcat is a well within 10 kilometres of another oil or gas well. Who knows I might strike the real big elephant find, better than Singapore sweep.

  • old & lazy

    @NS men don’t get universal healthcare but we have to die for these Millionaire

    These are not millionaires, these are parasites and cowards, probably old singlish-speaking chinese “elites” who dont understand what basic social responsibility is all about, and thro speaking singlish and getting rich thro our CPF, ERP GST etc in the hope the ang mohs/others will respect them. These are complete retarded group. Same logic goes to some chinese christians who join the church not because they believe in god, but to upgrade their social status amongst the westerners, though the ang mohs knew this long ago than us local chinese. However not all chinese christians are bad, to be fair. I have seen very good ones, though not so often.

    ministerial salaries formula?? So these are the “finest” our nation can produce to serve us? Highly educated who can produce “complex” formula that non of us can understand but for their own benefit? Why not use that formula-creative minds to solve our MRT issues?

    The old guards/guys/idiots/cowards are setting bad examples to our kids, time to step aside and let go your power/money, let the more educated and responsible youngs to take charge! Letting the youngs disappointed will lead to decline in birth rate and GDP, and eveutually u have to pay one million $ per FT to carry your coffin. Don’t blame that DFS perfume girl for screwing up the MRT operations, it’s the useless guys who allow that to happen. Hope Liew TY can be the tough guy to handle the job.

    Probably the only woman who could run an organizatin efficeintly was Mother Teresa. who managed the “organization” with a kind heart.

  • Bo Bian

    The msg below is the last posting in the last page. I think few readers got the chance to read it.So I post it again.

    When they compare their income with the top earners, of course they feel discontented. Why should they work as CEO and earn less than other CEOs? Some more their job is more difficult.

    The committee proposes the minimum pay for a minister as 40% discount of the medium earning of 1000 top earners. That means the medium income of the 1000 top earners is 1.833 million dollars. There are about 500 top earners earn more that figure. I have doubt on the figure. For reason of transparancy, would the govt show the statistics?

  • paik

    They should not be compared to the private sector earners in the first place. they would not last a day in the REAL WORLD. It is just greedy people dipping their hands into OUR money.

    Whats wrong with Obama’s pay? Hu’s pay or even Cameron’s pay?
    They need MORE talent to handle the countries they are in?
    Singapore is SO SMALL , for goodness sake.
    politically it is less challenging as well.

    Since we are already a bona fide laughing stock of the civilized world for our ministers’ right to excessive high pay and dipping into the people’s money.

    May I suggest we focus on CIVIL SERVICE. one of worse suckers of the peoples’ money . They spend more and more just to justify it!
    The Perm Secs who boasted about their france holidays and superscales should get it big time. and NO they are NOT talented, obviously.

  • arthur

    i actually feel very sorry grace fu. she belongs to the category of real talent and made a real sacrifice in income to step into politics. we need more people like her, heng swee kiat and csm to step forward and i think we should not ask people of this calibre to make such a huge sacrifice.

    the problem is that jokers from the army like chan chun sing, lui tuck yew, tan chuan-jin and even lhl are not real talent. how much was chan chun sing earning in the army? and if tan chuan jin becomes a minister, his pay will jump like crazy from his last held post as brigidier-general. these fellas are not spore’s top 1000 lah.

    i would go so far as to say that grace fu should have been promoted to mcys minister instead of that army ah beng

  • arthur

    so my view is for sporeans to be fair to grace fu as she is one of those that made a real sacrifice. i imagine the income opportunity cost to her could be as much as 50%. now that’s a lot to ask of anyone and i wldn’t do that. if you friend asks you whether he should join politics and take a 50% cut, i think you’ll also ask him to forget it and don’t be mad.

    so i think let’s not be too critical of real talent who truly make a sacrifice. i can undetstand if they feel hurt. let’s focus on those who are getting a promotion.

  • son of singapore

    Whether WP does it intentionally or not, its recommendation to set ministerial salaries at multiples of an MP’s salary, is not a wise suggestion.
    It will just mean that MPs’ salaries will be soon overblown by the PAP and the rest of the salary edifice explode exponentially.
    The PAP is searching for ways and means to have a legitimate device to earn the rights to continue with their mindblowing remuneration. Do not open the door for them to achieve this.
    As I have repeatedly explained, the actual salaries of serving officeholders around the world is the best global indicator of the value of a minister at various stage of seniority. We live in a globalised world and the global market place speaks clearly about remuneration of the different types of professions. To disregard this most natural source of comparable data is to cheat.
    The findings of the Review Committee on ministerial salaries is not even wrong because it is blind to the most salient data existing in our world for the determination of its object. The findings of this committee is irrelevant in the most fundamental sense.
    I hope that you WP are capable to put the matter aright in the forthcoming parliamentary debate.
    At the end of the day the recommended salaries of our ministers should bear some resemblance to such salaries of developed nations. This is commonsense at its most basic, no matter how the calculations are made.

    WP, you are the only opposition group in Parliament. Please do not fail us.

  • arthur


    we cannot compare salaries globally because we need a sporean to do the job. the talent pool is small.

    a thai worker is much cheaper than an sg worker. and in the developed countries, like say us, they are poltically much more aware and involved than sgreans. they can have things like the tea party. and they have a much larger pool.

    spore in comparison, is a very young country with very few knowledgable in politics or social awareness.

    bottom line is we need a sporean to do the job. and there are very very very few who are are socially aware enough, intelligent enough and willing to do the job.

    you can set a low salary, i am confident the applicants will fall short of sporeans and your expectations.

  • arthur

    i think sdp and wp fell short because they failed to localise the issue. the ques is how much for a capable SINGSPOREAN, not how much for non-singaporean.

    in the last us elections, obama ran agt. john mccain. the fella is a war hero for gdness sake. so if no obama, still got a very experienced statesman who has not only gone to war for his country but is a war hero. he can be tortured for his country and go smack into danger.

    the mayor of new york is michael BLOOMBERG. now this is the kind of taleny running for office, of course you can talk terms. but in sg, we simply don’t have such talent. and the very few that we do aren’t going to do it.

  • kf

    arthur, sacrifice is a given in private sector, the amount of which will not matter if the person cannot deliver. It’s the same when someone who works in the office cannot clean a hawker centre. This person will then not be fit to be paid for cleaning.

    Many policy makers like her have given the unmistakable impression that they are more interested in their own paychecks than real performance to citizens. Asking for 5 year probation, or even indefinite periods to get things done destroys credibility. This is the kind of attitude that irks the private sector.


  • arthur


    yes, good points. but like i said, unfortunately, we can only hire sporeans. and unfortunately, sporeans are a pragmatic lot and the best and brightest, like most sporeans, are motivated by dollahs.

    grace fu may be whiney but look at what sdp has to offer. i just thought we should try to localise the issue a bit and see what we got. no point comparing with other countries who have a large pool of highly talented individuals competing do the job.

  • rockabyebaby

    @Gold Fish,

    Are you a Pappy “Gold Fish”? As you at least certainly “think” like a gold fish swimmer around ‘hoping to be admired?

  • oxygen

    @ arthur


    “grace fu may be whiney but look at what sdp has to offer. i just thought we should try to localise the issue a bit and see what we got. no point comparing with other countries who have a large pool of highly talented individuals competing do the job.”

    I share Grace Fu much celebrated “excited” utterance of political leadership’s addiction to humongous pay sydrome – confesion of the Pavlov dog’s classical conditioning, maybe in deep reflective thoughts.

    I COMPLETELY DISAGREE with your proposition that…..”no point comparing with other countries who have a large pool of highly talented individuals competing do the job.” ON THE CONTRARY!

    It is this large pool which forced Barack Obama to fight and contest a heavy-weight like Hilary Clinton to take out the Democratic primary and to the final race for US Presidency.

    A Herculean feat and the prize in financial reward compared to our airy fairy class here? THERE IS A UNIVERSAL RANGE BOUND BRACKET FOR POLITICIANS PAY ACCEPTABLE TO SOCEITY.

    Given Barack Obama’s solid scholastic law credentials and his ability proven in the race to the White House to make history, Obama would make a lot more in legal practice with his wife. Political leadership has the ethos of public service and shaping history and destiny of nations.

    If your mind motivation is money for any politician, move on please. No history and destination is worth less than the Pavlov’s dog classical conditioning hunger for money.

    The law and humanity definition of political leadership and PATRIOTISM did NOT say either of them is equal to $$$$$$ and cents. I am sure Pavlov’s dogs won’t agree with me. Otherwise Ivan Pavlov won’t get his Nobel prize award.

    So the bottomline is SKH is deadly right – “a missed opportunity” to right a long enduring and injurious wound in our society.

  • oxygen

    ON HUMANITY, HISTORY AND POLITICAL LEADERSHIP ASPIRATIONS, no one politician anywhere should put himself or herself ahead of his/her country for the rat-like cravings for money.

    It is just plain wrong. Angela Merkel is a performer on the EU political stage. She once said this – if any politician has a craze for money, he or she should go into the industrial field where there are unlimited amount of money to be had and only limited by your own ability.

    And in truth of substance, politics is not just how smart you are but how smart and even dirtier your political opponents are.

    So how to make money in politics when politics is a tiger cage of two tigers fighting for survival when ALL THE MONEY IS OUTSIDE THAT CAGE AND THE SURVIVING THE TIGER FIGHT STILL LOCKED IN CAPTIVITY?

    Want to make money, get out into the business world, for goodness sake. Don’t rip off the public purse to get rich. It is just plain wrong.

  • Tiller

    The terms of reference were deliberately set that way to make sure that the Ministers will continue to be paidmulti-million salaries. It is a fool’s game which got nothing in Spore folled.

  • oxygen

    @ K Das


    “Ministers are also like horses (pardon the pun Ministers!). When they enter politics and become a Minister for the first time, they are ‘outsiders’, and some, even ‘rank outsiders’. Three four years in office, they become ‘favourites’. One or two even get ‘withdrawn’ later because they have become ‘unfit’.”

    It reminded me of the last US Presidential election, specifically the Democratic primary. Barack Obama was the distant no-entity “DARK” (no racial connotation here) horse of NO significant political history and experience or public recognition.

    In the Iowa primary, he rocked ahead, leaving “hot favourite” tigress ( no sexism here) and thought “sure bet” favourite (Hilary Clinton’s two-against-one all in the family) behind and in that race in Iowa, two others were found physically “unfit” died political on the roadside campaign trail. And in the last two rounds (one against Hillary Clinton for Democratic nominee) and the other against the big Republican elephant, Obama won.

    Obama was like a flea from nowhere which raped an (Republican) elephant! The favourite and the elephant do not quite measure up in all the final eventuality.

    The moral of my argument is this – we have to back the dark horse if there is any hope for progress and renewal of society.

    The worst sin of error is to OVER FED the known tiger in captivity of proven repeated failures. That over fed, lazy and incompetent-of-survival tiger (when released back into the wild) will NOT survive.

    There is no pressure of pay or punishment, there will be no performance. Ivan Pavlov demonstrated the falsity of extrinsic inducement to motivate performance. And Barack Obama’s achievement demonstrated history, humanity and society aspirations over-rides all money inducements in his successful quest for political office.

  • Tiller

    Re : Earlier posting. Last sentence should read : It is a fool’s game which got nobody in Spore fooled.

  • Gian Png

    All these “Messed” created jus b’cos “One Silly Oldfart now wants more $$$$ for himself & his Son “.

    This is the real “Hard Truth”

  • bornSGaporean

    @ Oxygen

    well say , U are right, Thank U

  • oxygen

    @ bornSGaporean


    We are told on the world stage that Singapore is NOT a country but a city. How can a city then be “submissively oppressed” ( we can street march to protest this), even unwilling to pay multi-millions to aspiring “town clerks”(metaphorically speaking) to serve? How can you find a dozen giant groupas weighing 300 kilos plus for your dinner table in my little backyard duck’s pond?


    Or is it still NOT of utter incredulity otherwise?

  • oxygen

    Oops typo error

    “We are told on the world stage that Singapore is NOT a country but a city. How can a city then be “submissively oppressed” ( we can street march to protest this), even unwilling to pay multi-millions to aspiring “town clerks”(metaphorically speaking) to serve? How can you find a dozen giant groupas weighing 300 kilos plus for your dinner table in my little backyard duck’s pond?”

    should be read as

    “We are told on the world stage that Singapore is NOT a country but a city. How can a city then be “submissively oppressed” ( we CAN’T street march to protest this), even unwilling to pay multi-millions to aspiring “town clerks”(metaphorically speaking) to serve? How can you find a dozen giant groupas weighing 300 kilos plus for your dinner table in my little backyard duck’s pond?”

  • arthur


    uh, my point is that we don’t have such competition. if we do, than we can pick and choose. but very few of the right calibre are stepping forward.

  • oxygen

    @ arthur


    “uh, my point is that we don’t have such competition. if we do, than we can pick and choose. but very few of the right calibre are stepping forward.”


    If the PAP removed ISA, Public Order Act, and all other dacronian oppressive laws including banning professions like lawyers to speak up on socio-political issues inhibiting the germination of a rich political culture, there will be a flood of top calibre specie stepping forward.


    This is both corrupt thinking and corrupt conduct in itself.

    Politics in any country should not be of such “bumker mentality” of self-interest (at expense of your own country) combined with thuggish behaviour. IT IS NOT AND SHOULD NOT BE TURNED INTO PRIVATE FIEFDOM AND PROTECTED TURF like the old days of ganglands “no-go areas” like Lorong Tai Seng unless you pay homage and dues to the thugs’ lord.

    And if you are talking about calibre and performance, I hardly think the present measures up in cold hard truth of reality.

    The Mas Salamat saga and the fiasco of another crisis management episode of MRT breakdown in the tunnel leave me worrying if we are in competent safe hands. Both are crisis management situations but of DIFFERENT TYPES and in both instances, the political leadership disintegrate into failures.

    This TRE editorial explains succinctly why.

  • kf

    arthur, I agree we have to hire citizens for the job. What I disagree is to hire based on credentials, not actual performance. What I disagree is also our lax policy in not showing the exit doors on the so-called talents, even when blunders are made. Apart from the out of the world salaries, we have arguably the biggest team of ministers per population compared to the rest of the countries. For the top dollar we are paying, it makes sense for them to be transparent about what KPIs exactly each full minister or MOS is to fulfill and by when. Pardon me for being blunt, but we cannot count the number of guest of honour functions, VIP endorsements they get as part of the performance. Will you pay someone a million dollars, and not concerned what he is to do ? Look closely at their stance and the media. The whole subject is slanted towards pegging their salaries, without any need to for accountability to commensurate with the package.
    I did not say that everyone in SDP is fantastic. However, we now have a situation where we have a bunch of non- performers as policy makers who are paid millions not because they can deliver, but because they are in power.

  • arthur


    you make valid points but i don’t agree there is a flood of talent. u.s. has the ceo of bloomberg, foxnews and such, truckloads of war heroes and graduates from harvard, mit, yale and so on. we have mediacorp ceo, an army chief who is an exam hero and nus.

    so i stress we must look at what we got.


    i think about 1/2 are non-performers or it’ll be hard to find someone who can do better. nobody in sdp impresses me. i like the indian doctor who sometimes speaks at their events but the party members are very unimpressive and few stay the course. their ideas are poor too.

  • kf

    I do not think 1/2 are non performers. If you look carefully for tangibles they can deliver or have delivered, it’s almost the entire team. We can go on and on about whether it’s 1/2 or some other proportion, but the point is, it’s hard for people to accept that we pay million dollars salaries for them.
    I do not think it’s an apple-to-apple comparison to state that sdp members do not stay their course. We have to remember that while policy makers are paid handsomely (and have taken it as a right to be paid handsomely) to stay on course, the reverse is often true of opposition.
    We cannot find someone to do better ? I think you have been conditioned to think that way unfortunately. So many citizens have left our shores to work overseas and they are not returning, because of the mess the policy makers have made. If you even get to know these people personally, you will reconsider what true talent means.

  • Gold Fish


    I am a Singapore Gold Fish. And I support whoever can give me a better quality of life. No point in having cheap salary ministers or even give free service if they mess up my livelihood.

  • oxygen

    @ arthur


    Much as I disagree on your comment in quote below (and of course, you are entitled to disagree), I must say I have already seen hints of talents flowing into the opposition camps in the 2011 election regardless or not if they did won a seat.

    “you make valid points but i don’t agree there is a flood of talent.”
    CSM in WP is outstanding new appearance. I am confident that he won’t be the last despite some unfortunate and uncharitable comment hurled at him before the election.

    The performance of the present incumbents, not just seen in failures of crisis management but policies not working from housing to transport to immigration to fast falling living standards are fundamental issues not resolved or capable of satisfactory resolve in the short to medium term will give impetus for quality to emerge.

    Against this dismal backdrop of apalling performances, I am confident that there will be more Sylvia Lims, Ng Jee Says, Pwees, Chees and others coming out of the closet and take on the incumbent.

    Public anger starts as a tide, then increasingly a torrent now could become a tsunami by the time 2016 is ready for the ballot test again.

    The incumbent is under enormous pressure to lift the game, a lot more so if it keeps to its gun on the Ministerial Salaries Review Committee’s recommendation which voters found the TOR application (or manipulation as some might put it) offensive.


    The incumbents are betting “all or nothing” against a tide of rising public anger. The crash may be ugly to look at in 2016.

  • oxygen


    If you can’t manage crisis, no amount of so-called talented policy formulation work can rescue you from utter failure. Crisis only occurs when policy formulation fails or processes or procedures (i.e. implementation) fails or both collapse together or in sequence.

    When ministers and/or political leadership fails repeatedly in DIFFERENT TYPES of crisis management, there is NO PERFORMANCE AND BIGGER RISKS OF SUDDEN DEATH FAILURE AHEAD – just like a serious of mild strokes and then a sudden big one that ends it all.

    This is what Singapore is in now. And political leadership demand humongous pay NOTWITTHSTANDING a series of stroke warning from public transports, to immigration, to housing to fast falling standards and generally a society disintegrating outside the elite class.

  • arthur


    well, if they left, i wish them well but they won’t be standing for the next election, will they? so again, we need to go back to AVAILABLE talent.

    as to the ‘mess’, i think we need to be careful. i am first and foremost a sporean citizen and i will be very reluctant to rate another country better than mine. europe and u.s. aren’t pretty sights and if you haven’t noticed, they’re coming here. of course, some sporeans find another place better. we can only wish them well and hope the racism and being 2nd class citizens doesn’t get to them.

    yup, we have to disagree on whether its is 1/2 or all of the cabinet that is underachieving.

    i am no more conditioned to think in any one way anymore than you are.


    ng jee say, phua and chee? have you heard these guys speak??? i prefer not to be shouted at, if you don’t mind.

  • kf

    arthur, why don’t you define very clearly what available talent means ? Again, this is provided we are drawn into a talent discussion, in which what we need in the political fraternity is clearly not just talent but someone with the heart for people. It seemed that the both, especially the latter, are missing in many policy makers.
    To me, it is an insult if we classify office holders as truly and competently serving the people. Look at someone who diagnosed a flood as 1 in 50 years, allowed a limping terrorist to escape, overblowing a YOG budget, used dubious statistics to justify that scholarships do not favour the well-off, suggested citizens to send their parents to johor for retirements, sneaked in an increase in president salary on the last day of a budget and so on. I rather we change the term to people leaders instead of talents. This surely cannot be the people leaders we fall head over heels to woo and keep.
    Yes, we are all conditioned through our filters.
    I am not comparing countries to countries. Other countries paid a couple of hundred thousands per candidate to have them make blunders in public office. We have chosen to pay for such candidates in the millions with pensions even.
    Some of these office holders from other countries inherit issues passed down by heads of other parties. We inherited issues passed down by the same one, with many of them already holding public office in the same team.
    There are places for both measured and emotional responses. Measured responses do not mean they are right. Emotional responses do not mean the person has lost control. Again, it may not be something you agree. I hope you quoted opposition members not because you have not heard lky shouting or raising his voice.

  • oxygen

    @ arthur


    I prefer to view perspectives in BIGGER TOTALITY than how someone speak or don’t speak or any other physical attributes or even his/her political brand preference (it might surprise you that I really think highly of Tharman as a minister).

    “ng jee say, phua and chee? have you heard these guys speak??? i prefer not to be shouted at, if you don’t mind.”

    I have my views of some others but it is UNECESSARY, NOT NICE or GENTLEMANLY to speak of them here. I don’t want to go there.

  • iVOTExiaoBENG

    Gold Fish8 January 2012

    I am a Singapore Gold Fish. And I support whoever can give me a better quality of life. No point in having cheap salary ministers or even give free service if they mess up my livelihood
    and the present pap governors hav been givin YOU a grandlife right?
    are YOU the same perm sec who went to paris for a 5 months cookin course?
    what course..INTER perhaps?

  • iVOTExiaoBENG

    arthur8 January 2012


    i think about 1/2 are non-performers or it’ll be hard to find someone who can do better. nobody in sdp impresses me. i like the indian doctor who sometimes speaks at their events
    so YOU are the baldheaded doctor who deliver babies as part of the National Service stint..right?


  • NoToTwo

    @Lee Ai See Aka Liao

    I am one of the 60% you conveniently accused of doing whatever it is you think we are trying to pull off.

    But you are angry at your own circumstances in life and so I can understand your angry words.

    However, you surely know the path Singapore goes down if one side of the electorate is played against another. No one side wins, only the politicians win.

    For what it is worth, I will say that Singapore is not a basketcase. You will tend to forget that fact seeing the amount of “group hugging” that goes on in comment sections of this website.

    We are asking for policy tweaks, not whole-sale changes.

    Let go about that in a proper manner, and not act like the stupid Americans who talk about politics like it is a sport without real consequences.

  • arthur


    available talent: sporeans of outstanding talent who are willing to serve. pap: heng swee kiat, tharman, ng eng hen… wp: csm.

    “lky shouting…” well there you go. no need to replace him with other shouters, right?


    it wouldn’t surprise me at all. i think tharman is doing a good job.

  • kf

    arthur, no one is replacing him with other shouters. It’s a fundamental difference we are talking about here. To you shouting appears intolerable, if I may conclude under all circumstances. To others, there is a place.
    Our standards to bring people on board are low. For the tax payers’ money we spend, far too low. The results and accountability of a multi million dollar team and their salaries are worlds apart.
    We are not on the same wavelengths. On paper we agree to disagree. In reality, these are the kinds of things that will bring about rifts to many. It would have been simpler, if all we need are so-called talents. The real world, which includes the auntie picking the cardboards requires more than that : being in touch with the people.
    According to what they were appointed for, what exactly did HSK, Tharman, NEH, CSM deliver ?

  • oxygen

    @ arthur


    “it wouldn’t surprise me at all. i think tharman is doing a good job.”


    I am wondering aloud if Tharman had taken over the top job from GCT (and I absolutely DON’T subscribe to the notion that only someone from the majority ethnicity must or can fill that role),we might not have ended up

    a) WITHOUT the insanity of 6.5 million or more of target population and nuclear power option lunacy (more clearly so lunatic of this option given displayed absolute incompetency in crisis management of both the Mas Salamat and MRT breakdown ugnomimy)… the torrid social-economic devastating impacts of more than 2 million foreigners flooding this country – the desperate mess we found ourselves in today,

    b) as a pragmatist, Tharman could have stopped all those humongous ministerial pay escalations long ago and we might not have this divisive issue of ministerial pay controversy today when the government is non-performing.

    c) with Tharman really groomed top-guns like himself, got rid of deadwoods, and Singapore might have been in a very happy situation today of our economic direction forward.

    And this brings me back to the inevitable conclusion – it is NOT the size of ministerial pay that determines the success or failures in political leadership – it is WHO in the political leadership which shaped our direction and the success or failure of this country. IT IS THE MAN OR WOMAN in any government which determine performance – Bill Clinton (despite his personal life “wonders in history”) was a top economic manager just like John Howard and Paul Keating were.

    It is the MAN, NOT THE MONEY PAID to that man in politics which shapes the country’s destiny. neither Clinton nor John Howard nor Paul Keating was paid anywhere near to the HUMONGOUS ministerial pay this country have been and still paying to our ministers and we ARE FAILING SPECTACULARLY.

    The voters’ backlash is very strong out there, not just found in cyberspace blogging – make no mistake about this.

  • oxygen

    Ooops typo error

    “I am wondering aloud if Tharman had taken over the top job from GCT (and I absolutely DON’T subscribe to the notion that only someone from the majority ethnicity must or can fill that role),we might not have ended up”

    should be read as

    “I am wondering aloud if Tharman had taken over the top job from GCT (and I absolutely DON’T subscribe to the notion that only someone from the majority ethnicity must or can fill that role),we might HAVE ended up”

  • arthur


    hang on a minute. i commented that i do not like people shouting at me to make a point. and then u replied so does lky. well, two wrongs don’t make a right.

    we can agree there are some circumstances that require more than shouting, even going to war. but chee and friends tend to shout when it is uncalled for. consider how syliva, csm and low give their rally speeches, then consider how those sdp politicians we mentioned speak. please, we’re adults. there is no need to scream in my face.

    i still recall csj asking gck “where is the money?” now imagine if everybody behaved liked csj, trying to outshout the other…chaos.

    you then ask me to provide a report card on what HSK, Tharman, NEH and CSM delivered. well, their achievements are reported in the papers. heng sweet kiat was ex-md of sgx, you can pick up old copies of sgx’s annual report. he has kpis to meet. as education minister, i see him pretty on the ball, launching new policies. tharman i think has managed the economy pretty well.

    csm has stated he wished to help build an opposition that will provide competition for the papa. he believes competition will bring about better change for spore. he has spoken up on the need for alternative voices as well as got elected, right? and it looks like they are working on east coast, so i think he is on track for building a quality alternative party. sdp didn’t win a single seat, right?

    but if you wish to say, oh all these are not delivering something because they are not helping the auntie picking the cardboard then is very difficult.


    yes i think spore is ready for an indian pm. he gets my vote over mr mai hum. i don’t think it’s his call to clear deadwood though.

  • oxygen

    @ arthur

    GIVEN SO MUCH WARNINGS FROM ECONOMISTS OF BUBBLY PROPERTY-BANKING NEXUS IN GLOBAL ECONOMIES BEFORE GFC and the aftermath of that, I really long dearly for a triumvariate of Tharman, LHH (ex-Aljunied GRC) and LHK – all from the economics/financial arena – to be at the apex of the helm. If they are given a free hand, we might have been very different now. So sad really.

    So I am glad we are on the same page here of your support below.

    “yes i think spore is ready for an indian pm. he gets my vote over mr mai hum. i don’t think it’s his call to clear deadwood though.”

  • kf


    You are referring specifically to SDP (I don’t know why). I am not a fan of SDP, and I am only referring to a general case where shouting has a place. We are not on the same wavelength.
    In other words, we are not even on the same wavelength to classify whether shouting is right or wrong.
    In the same vein, as you don’t condone people shouting in your face, there will be many who don’t condone a measured response of nonsense, and may even quote you, ‘please, we’re adults’
    Our chaos now is not dued to shouting. It’s due to numerous measured responses of nonsense.
    I am not looking at achievements from ex jobs, but the current ones. I cannot give full support for HSK’s previous achievements even if he is on the ball.
    We have a team of policy makers who make big time blunders on recruitment, so the skepticism will remain.
    I cannot endorse Tharman as running the economy well. This are the kind of statements that are too macro, motherhood for a million dollar guy. He keeps harping about increasing the media salary from $2.2k to 3k in ten years with zero reference on costs. This is the kind of claim that asks everyone if $10 income – $1 cost is better, or $100 income – $99 costs.
    Economy is not everything. As a DPM, it is not reasonable for him to join in to pump in and keep foreigners in droves and questionable quality. Economy is only a meaningful measure if the citizens benefit as a whole. It is not just a headcount number. It is about innovation as well, which we are not good at. Look at Israel, a nation that is many times smaller than the rest, yet they lack no leading edge products.
    Beyond that, well integrity is important. Important to the extent that he should not give the unmistakable impression he is trying to sneak in a president salary increment in a budget session.
    You did not mention about NEH’s achievements when you quoted him. Why ?

    I agree CSM is on track. I am waiting to see more of him.
    Of course it will be difficult with the auntie with the cardboard. You see, we have all been brought up with education that placed morals at the backseat. It’s not about scooping the whole ocean dry. It’s about caring for your fellowmen.
    Their salaries are many times higher than any other world leader has received, in addition to the promise ‘no man left behind’ from lhl. It’s not acceptable to renege on the promise with a multi million club.
    The standards for performance cannot be at the same level as the rest of the world. I am not trying to insult you, but I infer that you have not seen the requirements in a top notch private sector at all, of which many can be just as demanding.

  • oxygen

    @ kf

    I, personally, actually view Tharman reads the global economic pulse quite well. I do also follow closely the global economies turbulence in recent times.

    As to the FAILED POPULATION-DRIVEN ECONOMIC STRATEGY, i don’t think he is the architect of that policy. But I understand your contrary view below in quote

    “I cannot endorse Tharman as running the economy well.”

    If Tharman is in the top job and the architect of this influx of population-driven economics and we found ourselves in this deplorable mess, I would rate Tharman’s performance as wholly satisfactory to me.

    The population-driven economic agenda is an absolute disaster and a big media futile concealment of failures.

    Economic management is a big factor for my viewpoint and, in my opinion, they failed spectacularly.IT IS A POLICY FAILURE, not Tharman’s pulse read of global economy. Even the middle class nominal wage stagnates in the last 5 years, forget about those below discarded into the rubbish bins in the last 10 years.

  • kf

    oxygen, I agree with you that Tharman reads the global economic pulse well, and I know he is not the architect of the failed policy.
    There are many failure points in the population driven policy though, ranging from stop at 2, failed population measures, to indiscriminate foreigner influx to finally lack of innovation. Obviously, there wasn’t a time when they said that foreign real talents be given preference if innovation is given a high weightage. No, the sort of innovation practised in the multi million dollar club squeezes the citizens high and dry, while trying to give the impression we are ok.
    But I am sure at some point, Tharman would have lent credibility to support the policy through the perspectives of finance. So, I question his domestic diagnosis at least. Now, back to his role in which the closet strike in similarity is that of a CFO in a private sector. Many of these people I know hold down 2 sets of KPIs, the financial ones, and the non financial ones. Now, if I have to pay a CFO this amount, he cannot be solely holding down 1 set of KPIs.

  • iVOTExiaoBENG


    yes i think spore is ready for an indian pm. he gets my vote over mr mai hum. i don’t think it’s his call to clear deadwood though.

    dhanbalam was supposed to be the primeister..instead he got a SLAP…
    you arthur make me laugh..even the india president is a bhaii…

  • arthur


    too long to provide a full report. tharman whem education minister made a lot of changes. i sat up and noticed him when he made changes to the 2nd language. that took some guts.

    income inequality is a challenge for any developed country. do u have a solution? if u think tharman is not performing, u should look at the middle income. not too bright, can’t speak both eng and chn well, in their 40s, yup a lot in my office. would hire a pinoy anyday.

    how so you raise the income of a group like that?