Forum letter justifying Singapore Cabinet’s pay as $10 per resident, draws harsh criticism from citizens

A forum letter from Dr Yik Keng Yeong published in The Straits Times (ST) wrote, “We face graver and more complex socioeconomic and geopolitical problems with each passing decade, and these will not go away with the simplistically expedient measure of decreasing the pay of the executive branch of the Government, convenient whipping boy though it has become,”

Dr Yik was writing in to comment on the high ministerial pay as a factor that is increasing disenfranchisement and causing discordance between Singaporeans and the Government, mentioned by ST editor-at-large Han Fook Kwang.

“Paying well for talent does not make a relationship with officialdom merely transactional. The term denigrates the patriotism, ability and artistry of our governance, and the passion, service and sacrifices that have brought us to where we are today”, he said.

“Yes, we all wish for transformative leaders who can inspire us to achieve more. But, as much as many do not see this in the Government, do we see this trait in our opposition leaders? The Workers’ Party, well received and credible as it is, does not even profess the will to form the next government,” he wrote.

Dr Yik also added that if it all comes down to just numbers, Singaporeans fork out about $50 million to $60 million per annum in taxes, or about $10 per resident a year to pay the Singapore Cabinet.

“To put this into perspective, one premier-grade durian, eaten within minutes, costs more than $50. So, is this a pittance or an extravagance?”

“Emotive issues normally cannot be settled by rational arguments, but should Singaporeans sacrifice what we have in exchange for a new set of low-paid leaders, with the attendant risk of an untried government that may run up multi billion-dollar national debts through populist policies or sheer inefficiency?” he asked.

Citizens who commented on the article posted on the ST Facebook platform, shared mostly negative opinions in regards to Dr Yik’s thoughts.

Some comments touched on the issue of durian mentioned by Dr Yik; many wrote that not all residents eat the expensive fruit – and others said that the $50 durian is shared with the whole family member – so that is not a right equation:

David Lee wrote: “Do resident eat durian everyday and do all resident eat durian? Another 3legs pet person here talking to get attentions and trying very hard to get the so called top dog attention. The millions Pay team did not help to maintain the cost of living instead all area. Sarcastically moreover said that if don’t earned 500k is mediocre and want more salary.”

Sean Tan wrote: “I like durians, but i share the cost with my whole family member leh, so can my whole family share the 10dollar instead of everyone pay 10dollar?

Jonathan Lam wrote: “Yalor. Not everybody can afford to eat durian also. Just saying.”

Peter Tan wrote: “Durian may be the so called King of Fruits but it would not be right or true to say that everyone loved, enjoy eating the thorny fruit the success rate could not be 100% that is very certain cos it may be heaven to lovers but a taboo or no touch, no eat to others. So it would not be fair to say that everyone will eat durian when the season gets underway.”

Kenny Lim Tze Kern wrote: “I know of many families who are struggling to make ends meet every month, let alone have the extravagance to eat durians. What kind of comparison is this?”

Melissa Tye wrote: “$10 per year per working citizen? U saying still ok to double up lah? Durian bad can change immediately, no need wait 5years. Better to pay $50 (go Penang, can pay MYR50) for good durian than 1cent for bad minister. Stupid comparison. Compare pay with other ministers in the world. How much for Canada’s PM each citizen has to pay for eg?”

Kok Lian Chua wrote: “The fact is no one can afford to take durian everyday or months but you have to feed these jokers every day; every year; infinitely and they still say it’s not enough !!!!”

Some comments said Dr Yik does not give a fair system assessment, considering the no income residents like infants and elderlies, and others mentioning the country’s tax structure:

Cheryl WL wrote: “Divided by per resident which include 1 day old infant and 100 years old grandparent not mentioning students, housewives, retrenched workers, retirees and all that has no income… Fair assessment?”

Yu Shun An wrote: “In the first place, did they able to help every resident? If not y every resident need to pay $10 a year ? PLP to the max !”

Aidan Seow wrote: “Let me ask those tissue and cardboard elderly collectors did they pay their 10 dollars anot.”

Kee Xian Jun wrote: “Aidan Seow as a matter of fact, no they don’t. Because our tax structure tax the higher income more, and hence the lower income do not need to pay so much (or do not need to pay at all).”

Eugene Chan wrote:

“Yu Shun An but lower income got GST voucher which will cover majority of the taxes that the person will be paying.

Assuming a person earning and totally spending his/her 1k a month, GST to be paid is $70. In a yr that’s $840. GST cash voucher rebate is $300 per person. U save voucher is $320-390.

So a lower income person will be paying about $150-$220 a year in taxes. Quite a small sum to pay for the benefits it comes with.”

Kee Xian Jun wrote: “Eugene Chan building on that, even the $150-220 do not necessary all go into the salary issue. Based on the ratio perspective, Most of it are utilise in other areas such as infrastructure improvements etc.”

Mohamad Firoz wrote: “What kind of rubbish news paper article is this? How many residents are we talking about here? How many are really income earners. Please don’t write such rubbish.”

Other citizens commented that Dr Yik’s logic is flawed; using his logic then comparing it to other countries it is only cents to be paid by each citizen for the leaders like in USA or India – or the China President Xi Jiping should have an annual salary of S$1.3billion to be proportional:

Shannon Knight wrote:

“What a horrible argument and logic, coming from a doctor no less. Based on his calculation, working out how much each person pays for their politician, then the ‘great’ US of A would work out to cents per citizen.

Instead, it is common sense that when you pay the most for your politicians to run the smallest country in the world, something is very very wrong. Also, the income that we are aware of is but a fraction of their total salaries, being part time politicians. The call to public servitude should be anything but monetarily attractive.”

Daniel BT Soon wrote:

“My reply to support you Shannon. This is the dumbest argument I have ever read. You just jig some figures and make sure its supports your argument. I can also do too it but I won’t stoop to your level.

Oh since you are doing this, let me help you. Why don’t you take Singapore 2017 GDP at USD$323 Billion and divide it by the number of ministers?”

Tat Lin Ng wrote: “If it can be considered that way, how much the prime minister of India will get, with contribution of just $1 per tax payer?

Steven Tor P H wrote: “So how about in other developed countries where each resident paid only a few cents rather then $10? Trying to distract this issue with a non rations argument. BTW, ST publication of this article is questionable.”

Andrew Goh wrote: “His argument is totally flawed. If what he said is right, then how about paying China’s President Xi Jiping 10% of Singapore’s ministerial rate, i.e. $1 per year for each resident. Then President Xi Jiping should have an annual salary of S$1.3billion. Does it make sense?

Sherman Page wrote: “By on your theory how much should China, US, Germany ,France, Japan, etc PM get? Are they pay the amount base on your calculation?? If not why? Don’t you think a better comparison is you count the top 10 or 20 countries PM and cabinet salary and expenses and average it out to see how much our PM and others on the cabinet should be pay?”

Lynn Wong wrote: “It cost Americans less than 0.0014cents for their President. Their President places American interest first and will take on fights with superpowers for US economic and security interests. We pay $10 for our cabinet, our elderly are collecting cardboard for exercise, sleeping at void deck because it’s hot and eating leftover from dumps because it taste better?”

And some citizens focused their comments on the purpose of good leaders, that is to serve the nation and put its people as the first priority. Leaders should put their citizens and people before themselves and not put payment as the first consideration to be one. When leaders set a good example to the people, the people will respect them:

Kimberly Chew wrote:

“I thought being government leaders means having the desire to serve the nation and its people as first priority. I thought they are also the highest paid in the world? The question is: are we making it into a job or is it because they cared about the betterment of the nation which means they have to accept good and bad comments as public figures.

Are they strawberry gen? Requires TLC? They are the mothers and fathers of the nation, they asked the citizen to trust them, trust comes with great responsibility and accountability.

The writer makes it into a transactional relationship instead and should reflect on what he is saying, its obvious that he is writing out of his own emotions pointing fingers to others who dare to disagree.

How much is enough for them as public servants who says the citizens are overly ambitious getting a car when they can’t afford and complain? They are the ones who set the income ceiling to buy a hdb, resulting in people now aiming for condos to have that status? They controlled the pioneer, merdeka gen from having big families with fines and counseling that resulted in our shrinking population as people get accustomed to small families etc.

Not blaming them as they are addressing issues at the time and couldn’t imagine the impact downstream. That’s why people comment so to ensure that a wider view can be considered rather than just addressing an issue. People comment coz they cared as well.”

Terry Lee wrote:

“How can you compare eating durian with a Minister’s pay? Do we eat durians everyday? Does everyone in Singapore buy durians which costs $50 each? Do not forget that the Ministers are paid everyday, with the people’s hard earned money, acquired thru rain and shine, blood and sweat.

And GCT can greedily claimed that they are not paid enough. Serving the people with a big heart, with honesty, with integrity and with passion is much much more ethical and satisfying than doing it only with Dollars and Cents in mind.

This could be proven in many countries around the world, where their leaders put their citizens and people before themselves. This is how great rulers and leaders should behave. Set a good example to your people, and the people will respect you.

Not always use money as a yardstick to measure the capability of your team. Money is always not enough, not only for the poor, but more so for the greedy rich.”