While Singapore aims for pole position in many things, the one thing it has recently topped the charts for may be a dubious honour. According to UK-based credit brokers, Moneypod, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (PM Lee)has topped their list as the highest paid leader in the world. Not only is he the reigning champion, he also leaves other competitors trailing in the wake given that he is paid triple that made by Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam who takes second place.
While critics have frequently taken issue with the huge salaries paid to PAP ministers, it is important to note that he has topped the salary honour roll in a year which has so far seen the double hikes of the prices of electricity and water, the largest data breach in the history of Singapore, the announcement of GST increments and stagnant salaries (among other things). How can such a high salary be justified when the country is not exactly in tip-top shape?
Yes, the tycoons in Singapore are doing well as income divides spikes. Taken in this context, can PM Lee’s sky-high salary be seen as perpetuating a system where the rich get richer and the middle classes get poorer? Note that the current total annual salary of an entry level Minister (i.e. MR4) is benchmarked to 60% of the median income of the top 1,000 earners who are Singapore Citizens and PM Lee’s pay is two times of that amount.
There are signs that Singapore’s economy is not rosy. According to reports, offshore and marine industries (which form a large part of Singapore’s economy) have been lackluster at best. Industry experts have warned that there will not be a return to the glory days anytime soon. There are also the worrying reports that the number of unemployed people and those retrenched have risen in the second quarter of this year. How do all these revelations gel with PM Lee’s salary?
It has been pointed out that Singapore is one of the least corrupt countries in the world. While that may be legally true, is it less corrupt because anything that could be construed as corrupt in other countries is legal and open in Singapore? For example, most countries may see the huge salaries paid to our ministers as corrupt. Yet in Singapore, this would not be seen as corrupt because the law permits it. For something to be considered corrupt, it has to be illegal. Our ministerial salaries are a hundred percent legal and therefore do not fall under the umbrella of “corrupt”. I leave this to the reader to decide.
But one burning question I have is this: Do the ruling PAP politicians see the need to at least try justify their salaries? Or, is it just taken as an entitlement?