Million Dollar Civil Servant Censured in Parliament


Minister in charge of civil service, Teo Chee Hean, censured Tan Yong Soon in parliament for his boastful article (see perm sec flaunts wealth), saying it “showed a lack of sensitivity and was ill-judged.”

“The Head of Civil Service has spoken to Mr Tan about this to make these points, and asked Mr Tan to take note of the feedback and learn from this episode. The Head of Civil Service has followed up to write to Mr Tan to put the matter on the record.”

But I’m disappointed not to have read a single letter in ST Forum or Today or my paper regarding this.

Either the ST editors deliberately want a “radio silence” (media blackout) on this problematic matter (why didn’t they realise the problem before publishing Tan Yong Soon’s travelogue?), or that forum writers refuse to write on this, knowing too well that such letters won’t be published anyway.

But even Reuters UK reported on the outcry. Goes to show how our local reporters and editors are so focused on other more important issues. (I say this with sarcasm, in case you don’t notice.)

Actually, Minister Teo Chee Hean was responding to a query from NMP Siew Kum Hong, who asked if there were guidelines in place to ensure that senior civil servants conduct themselves “appropriately and sensitively”.

If the NMP hadn’t asked the question in parliament, I wonder if this matter would just quietly fade away, with the coordinated “radio silence”.


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  1. And indeed, why does this even merit much discussion? TYS has been a made a political scapeboat because he has brought embarassment and unwelcome analogies to the govt’s current belt tightening drive. Pple make much of the “timing” of his article (which by the way, does not actually mention how much the holiday costs – leave that to prurient journalists), but ignore the fact that he could probably have been flamed with the same logic no matter when the article were to be published. After all, it would only take another fool to point out that “S$50K can feed a poor family for 3 years” to make this whole circle spin all over again, boom times or no – as though poor pple form the natural priorities of all singaporeans at all times.

  2. We should pay them more so they know how to time their travels and writings properly. Btw, we’re the first to go into recession, so we should also pay our leaders more to make sure we’re not the first again. Embarrassing you know.

  3. In fact, if NMP Siew had not even asked, who knows if the Head of Civil Service would really have ‘gone on record’ and ‘censured’ TYS. As you pointed out, there wasn’t any mention of any public outcry in all major national media till yesterday. For all the supposed talent in our govt, I’m surprised they even need to learn how to conduct themselves in their position through such an episode.

  4. I have a small comment on the title. Is our lovable TYS really paid million dollars? assuming he makes 50kS$ a month plus 3 months bonus, that would be 750kS$ a year. That is a lot but still hardly qualifies him in the million dollar bracket.

  5. Yes, for senior perm secs and maybe even those not-so-senior ones, their annual income is more than a million.
    The senior ones get $1.94 MILLION before the 2008 pay cut – see
    … and $1.57 MILLION after the 2008 adjustment – see
    Even if they cut further in 2009, I think it’ll still be more than a MILLION.
    When I grow up, I want to be a Permanent Secretary cross-trained in Le Cordon culinary art.

  6. Pls give the man a break. He worked hard throughout his life, from study to obtain SAF scholarship, then rose to ranks to become a PS.
    Not everyone can achieve that much in a life time.

  7. he’s just lucky lah. lots of capable and more humble people do not get a chance to get a scholarship and the opportunities tys got in life. go read Fooled by Randomness or Black Swan.

  8. Why cannot one spend his money that he earns legally?

    The real issue here is: why is it necessary for such a pay first of all? When the global eco is good, it is their credits to lead the nation. When the time is bad, it is not their fault as the downturn cannot be avoided.

    This ecnonmic crisis has made the elite-system a joke: they are soooo good that we have to pay high $$ to retain them. At the end, they cause all the crisis, and leave the ordinary people sufferring. This happened in Wall St, but should we re-think about all the systems heavily relying on “elites”?

  9. I personally dislikes this type of elite system.

    They actually make a lot of mistakes in the past.

    Despite opposition MP Chiam See Tong requiring for the primary school streaming system especially EM3 to be abolished as the label it attached is damaging to the self-esteem of a 10 year old kid. It took Jack Neo I not Stupid for them to see this fact.

    Another is the repeated trends that they attempt to create, from IT to life sciences to business/entrepreneurship to now engineering, as if the youngsters of Singapore don’t have a mind of their owns and need the government to tell them what to study.

    All those who fall for the trends like IT previously and now especially Life Sciences have to go for some other further studies in other areas. It is as though they have wasted their times.

  10. Oh really ‘lucky’? if they did not get it, then they are less. Its a race.

    Also, WE know the black swan theory. Thing is, you don’t seem to. If these people are what you say to be “lots”, they won’t be black swans. Black swans only occur one in a million.

    Don’t talk so much when you don’t know what you are talking about.

  11. lucky, the Black Swan is taught to very young scholars fresh out of universities in Admin Service. It means a single unpredictable and rare occurrence “beyond the realm of logical expectations” and historical trending, especially after an uninterrupted chain of predictable patterns.

    Don’t buy books you can’t understand.

  12. i think lucky is trying to say that luck plays a part in a person’s success, more so than he’s willing to admit. everyone would want think he’s successful and rich because he’s intelligent and skilful, but he’s also probably very lucky to have been at the right places at the right times. this is not the black swan theory. it’s the fooled by randomness theory. don’t be fooled by randomness.

  13. jimmy: he cited Black Swan.It’s so funny that the person who doesn’t know what he’s talking about (as proven above by Black Swan) is the same one who believes that his failures are not his fault and completely random. And the success of his neighbour is not his merit, but also random.

    Now do I smell sour grapes? Now that’s a turn of phrase used correctly.

  14. wealthjourney on

    This is the safest job in the whole wide world.
    You get paid tons of money just to manage people without worrying about the bottom line.

  15. omg..thoroughly agreed..met a few super senior admin officers abroad and was shocked by their arrogance. why pay them according to what gs pays? Does the government seriously think that what they are doing is transferrable to the private sector? Please, by all means..try and apply.
    jesus..i so want to be working in the government!

  16. sour grapes on

    hahaha poor thing sour grapes..never heard a more jealous sour-grape sounding person in this website as yet

  17. >When I grow up, I want to be a Permanent Secretary cross-trained in Le Cordon culinary art.

    Ha ha. When I grow up, I want to be a PSP Helper.

    (then later…) I want to be the President of Singapore!

  18. Pingback: Civil Service Bonus 2009 | - Your Salary in Singapore

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