Roy Ngerng fact-checks AFP Fact Checker for its post on PM’s salary and minimum wage in Singapore

Taiwan-based Singaporean activist Roy Ngerng has called out AFP’s Fact Check website for helping the Singapore government to “spread misinformation”.

In a series of tweets, Mr Ngerng picked apart an article on AFP Fact Check about the Prime Minister’s Lee Hsien Loong’s annual salary and the minimum wage in Singapore.

The article referred to a post published on 1 May by The Temasek Review on Facebook which shared several infographics detailing how Singapore has one of the world’s lowest monthly minimum wages while its Prime Minister boasts one of the highest salaries of any world leader.

The article also said that the context of the infographics shared in the FB post was “misleading”.

It said, “Singapore does not have a minimum wage law, the country’s prime minister is one of the highest paid leaders in the world but the infographic uses out of date salary figures.”

The article also quoted a line from the Ministry of Manpower website which states: “Singapore does not have a minimum wage. Your salary is subject to negotiation and agreement between your employer and you or your trade union.”

Mr Ngerng said in his Twitter thread that what AFP Fact Check says it “not true” as the FB post didn’t actually say that Singapore has one of the world’s lowest minimum wage.

AFP Fact Check then said a reverse image search led them to an article by Mr Ngerng about wages in Singapore in 2013.

Mr Ngerng pointed out that in that article, he compared Singapore’s minimum wage with that of other countries with similar levels of wealth. Mr Ngerng agreed that Singapore has no minimum wage law.

However, he also highlighted what he said in his blog about how the Singapore government “refuses to set a minimum wage” and “the S$1,000 they are finally willing to give to cleaners can be seen as a de facto minimum wage. But even then, this is only $1,000.”

Refuting this part of the blog, AFP Fact Check quoted a government website which said cleaners are paid S$1,120 as of July 2018.

Mr Ngerng clarified that when he searched the archives, he found that the site actually said that contracts before 1 July 2017 had to be renewed to pay S$1,120 while contracts starting from July 2017 could actually pay only S$1,060.

Mr Ngerng said this means that what AFP Fact Check said “is a half-truth and is misleading”.

The activist then called out AFP Fact Check for not highlighting the study by the National University of Singapore’s LKYY School of Public Policy which said that seniors aged 55-64 need a basic income of S$1,731 a month to meet their basic needs.

He also asked why AFP Fact Check didn’t highlight that 7% of Singapore’s resident workers still earn less than S$1,000, 16% earn less than S$1,500 and 25% earn less than S$2,000 according to the numbers from the Ministry of Manpower.

Mr Ngerng also highlighted the Singapore Management University estimate which placed Singapore’s relative poverty rate at 20-35%.

“The government has refused to define a poverty line, like it refused to implement a minimum wage,” chided Mr Ngerng.

On the point of the PM’s salary, AFP Fact Check noted that the FB post referred to a chart showing Singapore’s leader earning the highest salary of any world leader. AFP Fact Check claimed that this is misleading and not up to date.

AFP Fact Check said that the FB post’s claim of the Singapore’s Prime Minister earning USD$1,700,000 in 2015, equivalent to S$2.3 million is wrong as the Prime Minister’s salary in May 2019 was S$2.2 million.

They also highlighted the Gov.sg website which claimed to be upfront about how ministerial salaries are calculated, as outlined in a 2012 white paper.

Mr Ngerng pointed out that the white paper shows that the “Prime Minister’s salary of S$2.2 million is ‘only’ based on a 13 month fixed pay, a 1 month AVC, and 6 months National Bonus”.

“Why do I say only? Do you know how much bonuses he actually gets to earn?” he added.

He went on to say, “After a lot of begging for answers, it was only revealed for the 1st time in October last year that Singapore’s ministers earned an average of 4.1 months of national bonuses in the last 5 years. The prime minister earns twice that, which means he earned an average of 8.2 months.”

Based on Mr Ngerng’s estimates, he says the PM would be earning as much as S$2.7 million, which is obviously more than S$2.2 million.

He continues, “In fact, I point out that the prime minister also gets to earn a Special Variable Payment (SVP) which has no stated limit, which theoretically means that what the prime minister can earn can be in the tens or hundreds of millions because there is no public information on the SVP.”

Mr Ngerng then asks if AFP Fact Check knows that the PM earns more than S$2.2 million, describing the research done is “pathetic”.

He also called them out for the point of the fact check in the first place.

“And it ended by saying the prime minister earns the highest salary in the world anyway. So what exactly was @AFP trying to fact check exactly?”.

Mr Ngerng then turns to Singapore’s government itself which has claimed that the PM earns S$2.2 million a year including bonuses. However, Mr Ngerng challenges that, saying that the government surely is aware of how much the PM earns in bonuses.

He asks, “If it still puts up such half-truths, what exactly is the Singapore government trying to hide?”

Mr Ngerng then says he crafted this Twitter thread to fact check AFP on the misinformation it is spreading, sharing a screenshot of the entire original article.

He went on to question the integrity of AFP Fact Check considering how they “can bend info too”, based on this article.