Writing for international website The News Lens on Friday (29 Jun), columnist Justin Hugo opined that the high ministerial salaries for PAP leader cannot be justified given their mediocre performance.
“After living in a bigger country, it is very difficult for me to wrap my head around the logic of [the People’s Action Party] that its Prime Minister and Ministers should be paid such high salaries”.
Economic Growth and City slicking
Hugo noted that the IMF projected Singapore’s economic growth for 2018 to be 2.9%, which was the same as New Zealand’s and slightly below Australia’s 3.0%. Yet the leaders of these 2 countries – Jacinda Arden and Malcolm Turnbull – are US$340,000 and $528,000 respectively.
He also drew a comparison to Luxembourg’s economic growth at 4.3%, or 1.5 times higher than Singapore’s.
Noting that their Prime Minister Xavier Bettel earns US$278,000 a year, Hugo asked if it was fair that Bettel “is presiding over a country forecast to grow 1.5 times faster than Singapore, yet [Lee Hsien Loong] pays himself nearly six times the salary?”.
Hugo then pointed to the Global Power City Index 2017, which evaluates and ranks the world’s major cities in relation to their ability to attract businesses and individuals. He noted that London was ranked first, followed by New York and Tokyo. Singapore was ranked fifth in the Index.
Hugo noted these cities “have two to five times the GDP of Singapore, yet the Singapore prime minister earns more than six to 12 times that of the London mayor, the New York City mayor and the Tokyo governor”.
Has high salaries brought about socio-economic progress?
Noting that the Ministerial formulae said that political “salaries should also be linked to the individual performance of political appointment holders, and the socio-economic progress of Singapore Citizens“, Hugo asked if Singapore’s socio-economic progress is ten times that of its counterparts.
He highlighted that Singapore “spending on social protections among the lowest in developed countries. If taken as a percentage of GDP [it] is less than half of that spent in South Korea and five times less than that allocated in Japan”.
“Why is the government intent on lining its own pockets rather than putting that money to work for the as many as 35 percent of Singaporeans living in relative poverty?” Hugo asked.
“In short, the whole twist of logic and propaganda that the Singapore government uses to feed their own addiction to high salaries can only be called one thing – bullshit, as Malaysia’s new prime minister Mahathir would say”.
Hugo then concluded that “PAP has only helped themselves with the country’s money to pay themselves high salaries, while leaving unaddressed Singapore’s gaping income gap”.
Does high ministerial salaries deter corruption?
Hugo also debunked PAP’s reasoning for paying high ministerial salaries would prevent corruption. This is because “If [ordinary] Singaporeans are not paid the highest salaries, then by the PAP’s logic, Singapore should be riddled with corruption”.
Taking a look at other counties such as Germany and Taiwan, Hugo asked “if these countries are able to maintain a low level of corruption without paying their ministers such inflated salaries, what does that say about Singapore’s ministers – that they need high salaries to prevent them from being corrupt?”
He concludes that if “If the PAP insists that high salaries should simply be paid to them to prevent corruption, even as the economy performs similarly to other countries, then we are in effect giving out free money” to PAP politicians.