SINGAPORE — Amidst the on-going discussion surrounding the ‘Ridout rental saga’, Red Dot United (RDU) issued a press statement on Saturday, demanding transparency and a broader discussion on the matter involving Minister K Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.
The controversy revolves around the ministers’ rental of Black and White Bungalows from the Singapore Land Authority, which Mr Shanmugam oversees as the Minister for Law.
While investigations have found no evidence of corruption or criminal wrongdoing, the controversy has stirred a conversation on wealth disparity, ministerial conduct, societal priorities, and conflict of interest in Singapore.
In its statement, RDU called for increased transparency, especially in wealth generation.
While the ministers were questioned by a Member of Parliament from the People’s Action Party over their private properties and whether they are renting out them, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean stepped in before a response could be provided, asserting there was no necessity for them to answer.
The RDU believes that this was a missed opportunity for the ministers to reassure the public by providing full disclosure of their rental status and financial interests.
RDU notes that the saga has also shed light on the stark contrast between the privileges ministers enjoy and the challenges ordinary Singaporeans face.
It points out that the wealth-based housing options available to the ministers exacerbate societal inequality.
The decision of Mr Shanmugam to try and sell his family home due to income changes, and Dr Balakrishnan’s choice to rent a bungalow to accommodate his extended family are luxuries out of reach for the average Singaporean, given the escalating public housing prices.
The RDU also questions the extent to which the ministers understand the everyday struggles faced by ordinary citizens.
The divergence in the realities lived by the ministers and the average Singaporean raises questions about the decision-makers’ ability to empathize and create effective policies.
The party suggests reevaluating ministerial salaries, which are currently pegged to the top 1,000 earners in the workforce.
RDU proposes pegging these salaries to the median gross monthly income from employment, arguing that this would help address the wealth gap and align the financial success of political leaders with the prosperity of everyday citizens.
Mr Ravi Philemon, Secretary-General of RDU, stated: “The Ridout controversy has triggered a broader discussion on wealth disparity, ministerial conduct, and societal priorities. While investigations found no evidence of corruption, questions remain about conflict of interest and the disconnect between the political elite and everyday citizens.”
The RDU believes that to demonstrate transparency, ministers need to be forthcoming when addressing public concerns.
They also recommend aligning ministerial salaries with the realities faced by the majority as a way to foster a robust sense of empathy that bridges the gap between the political elite and the wider society.