At a public dialogue with South East District residents last Thursday (2 August), Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong told the residents that if the ministerial pays are cut, Singapore will end up recruiting "very, very mediocre people" as officeholders.
"I am telling you the ministers are not paid enough, and down the road, we are going to get a problem with getting people to join the government, because civil servants now earn more than ministers," said Goh.
"To any one of us here, $1 million is a lot of money. So where do you want to get your ministers from? From people who earn only $500,000 a year, whose capacity is $500,000 a year? So (when) I look for ministers, anybody who wants to be paid more than half a million, I won’t take him. You are going to end up with very very mediocre people, who can’t even earn a million dollars outside to be our minister. Think about that. Is it good for you, or is it worse for us in the end?"
By ESM Goh's reasoning, Prime Ministers in first world countries like UK, Germany, Canada, Australia and others must be quite "mediocre" since they are all paid less than $500,000 a year and, as a result, they wouldn't be taken in, assuming if they did apply for a minister job in Singapore.
Singapore ministers should be paid less
Goh was responding to a suggestion by Braddell Heights resident Abdul Aziz, 70, that ministerial salaries be cut to fund pensions for elderly people. Singapore’s entry-level ministers are now paid an annual salary of over $1.1 million while PM Lee himself fetches a cool $2.2 million a year.
Following Goh’s comments, Yahoo!News did an online poll asking netizens: Are ministers in Singapore paid enough?
The poll was started by Yahoo!News yesterday (8 Aug). By noon today (9 Aug), some 10,500 people have already voted. An overwhelming 57% said Singapore ministers should be paid less. Another 30% said their salary should be pegged according to their performance, but given that Singaporeans are more dissatisfied with their quality of life these days, probably a large portion of the 30% will also be thinking that Singapore's ministers are being paid too much, considering their poor performance as officeholders.
Two National University of Singapore professors released the result of a survey in May this year, showing that there was marked unhappiness among Singaporeans over the current wage levels and the cost of living they are facing. More Singaporeans felt they have a decreased sense of achievement and are less satisfied with their overall quality of life when compared to previous years.
In any case, the following is the result of Yahoo!News' poll after 1 day, as at noon of National Day: