Ministerial Pay Review


[Update 5 Jan 2012: See our latest post Pay Cut for Prime Minister and Ministers, But Note the Make-Up Pay.]

PM Lee has just appointed a committee chaired by Gerard Ee to review ministerial salaries.

As pointed out in today’s Straits Times (printed edition), the government “does not disclose how much each minister is paid”, but the most current figures released by PSD are for the year 2009, which also covered in a previous article:

  • President $3.14m
  • Prime Minister $3.04m
  • Ministerial Grade MR4 $1.57m – senior Perm Secs also get this amount.
  • Entry Superscale Grade SR9 $353,000
  • Allowance for Members of Parliament $190,000. Note that almost all MPs hold full-time jobs and some are also directors of companies.

When interviewed, the chair of the Ministerial Salaries Review committee, Gerard Ee, said (emphasis mine):

“Whatever we work out, the final answer must include a substantial discount on comparable salaries in the private sector…” (ST, May 22, 2011)

I have 2 questions: How much is “substantial”? Why compare with only “private sector” and not other comparable countries?

No one mentions benchmarking against other similar countries. Is there a reason?

Highest Paid Civil Servants in the World

Senior Permanent Secretaries in Singapore are given a 7-figure annual pay, probably including the one who is trained in French cuisine. 🙂

In UK, the highest paid civil servant is the head of the Office of Fair Trading. He gets a meagre 280k pounds, which is less than S$600k. If you google for “highest paid civil servants in the world”, you will read about complaints from unhappy people in Canada, Ireland and South Africa when their best remunerated civil servants are paid just a fraction of ours.

The fact is that our best paid civil servants are getting multiple times the amount their foreign counterparts are getting.

I would like to see Singapore’s senior civil servants getting roughly the same remuneration as their counterparts in other countries, not multiple times more. I would also like to see them being held accountable for their work and perhaps be subject to early retirements if they are not up to par.

Highest Paid Political Leaders in the World

To the embarrassment of many Singaporeans, we also have the highest paid political leaders in the world.

According to MSN Money, PM Lee is the world’s highest paid politician, earning “by a staggering margin” more than 5 times what the runner-up Donald Tsang (Hong Kong) takes home.

With PM Lee’s salary alone, we can pay the combined salaries of 8 of the world’s highest paid politicians, including Barack Obama, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy.

With PM Lee’s salary alone, we can also fund all the 10 highest-paid government jobs in the US, including the jobs of Hillary Clinton, Timothy Geithner, Ben Bernanke and again Barack Obama.

Similar to what I said for civil servants, I would also like to see our political leaders be remunerated by roughly the same amount as their foreign counterparts, not multiple times more.

By how much should Singapore’s ministerial salaries be cut?


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  1. Apology is not the same as transparency and accountability. He might have retracted his comment but he will still think and act on it silently!

  2. To nonsense on

    Sorry not enough? Sounds vaguely familiar. Was it George Yeo who said the same thing to James Gomez?

  3. media at work on

    in today’s Zaobao, 3 old PAP cadres gave their views on why losing a few seats will help PAP, alluding to the fact that the PAP government has lost touch.

    One even commented it’s outrageous that political office holders in such a small country can earn the highest in the world.

    My question: Why didn’t these 3 fellows talk their talk before the elections? Only know how to analyse after the fact. How convenient.

  4. Pingback: Ministerial pay review « 4K's Reading Programme Blog

  5. No need to talk so much. No matter how they cut, the salaries will still be the highest in the world. And I still demand perfection from these super talented ministers. I want nothing less than perfection.

  6. Did President SR Nathan collect $40m in pay over his 12-year tenure as President?

    It’s like striking TOTO 40 times! haha…

  7. Come on! You guys whine so much, why not leave Singapore and go live in the United States? Go live in Detroit, or Cleveland, or Harlem, or the Deep South and find out all about the great U.S. of A.

    You complain your leaders are incompetent, yet they raised a poor little dirt hole of a nation (sorry, its true) into one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and a regional powerhouse.

    You talk about pay for leaders in the U.S.???? You realize most leaders in the U.S. retire from office and are immediately given fat sinecure jobs with huge pay from all the companies they helped while they were in office, right?

  8. hey

    what do u know where the wealth and power of the nation comes from ? It is not from the top political leadership, which has stumbled from blunders to blunders, but from the extraordinary toil, sweat and sacrifice of the common singapore ppl.

    what do u know about pay ? we are paying top dollars, & the toiling common ppl is getting blamed for lousy, sub-ordinary results.

    we dont want singapore to be like USA, where CEO are paid obscene salaries for NATO style performance.

  9. Completely agree with the author. One cannot compare public service salaries to the private sector. The public has the whole government and the mint backing you up. The private sector is competitive – ie one may fail so that million dollar compensation could disappear in a puff of smoke if the company fails or downsize. Besides, going into public service is what it should be – public service. That means, it should attract people who want to use their skills for the greater good; not just more money into their pockets.

  10. BTW, Singaporean politicians get away with such obscene pay because of the conformity-oriented population. I wonder why so many Singaporeans like to compare with the US. How about Australia? New Zealand? Norway? Germany? Sure, politicians in many other countries also receive perks: housing, transportation, etc. However, add it all up and they still don’t equate to millions; just hundreds of thousands.

  11. ‘Our junior ministers’ pay can hire two United States (US) presidents to work for us. Still, top 30 politician salaries in the world belong to Singapore.’

  12. Hobsons choice on

    All this talk of transparency is really annoying because did it occur to really get the ball rolling one must get all office bearers Pm, Ministers, Mps and Public Service Officers including to declare their assets before joining and yearly while in office for all Singaporeans to really believe they are incorruptible? May sound cumbersome but would help to understand their real reason to stand for public service and also highlights if they really deserve Singaporeans support on any talk of remuneration!

  13. I believe with this paycut PAP shows they are willing to listen to feedback from ordinary Singaporeans. The pay is fair.

  14. Pingback: Pay Cut for Prime Minister and Ministers, But Note the Make-Up Pay | - Your Salary in Singapore

  15. I am so forced to post my first ever online comment. We must have an honest and clean government, free from corruption in their terms of office. We cannot compare with other countries as their salaries may be have an unknown portion. Singapore as a country is already different and unique as we do not have any natural resources. All we have is ourselves to depend on. We must have the best of Singapore to take this country forward. I see that the minister pay is justifiable and should not be reduced at all. As long as we have a prudent and efficient government they should be getting the most paid. However they must also ensure that pay also comes with responsibility.

  16. Although our per capita GDP now is more US$54,000 the highest in Asia which is exceeded by Tokyo (83.0), Sydney (74.1), Taipei (35.5) and Seoul (32.3) but life here, we are having our morning breakfast, a Fried Bee-hoon or fried Noodles with a side dish fried egg. Hence, what kind of living standard the PAP government have been achieved or improved to Singaporean within the last 20 years. Singapore was ranked the second most expensive place to live in after Tokyo, surpassing Hong Kong for the first time. In other words, though the cost of living is higher in Tokyo, the average Japanese has a domestic purchasing power more than twice that of an average Singaporean. It means Japaneses are taking Sushi but we are taking fried noodles come with cheap plastic plate.

    “If you have the wrong system of pay, you will have the wrong team… As Prime Minister, this is my constant worry.” – – PM Lee said.
    In fact, PM is totally right. This is the wrong system, to offer high salary but attracting wrong talents join politics. This is the failure of Leadership.

    In the private Corporate World – If the company found scandals like the Japanese camera and medical equipment maker Olympus Corp which has suffered over a massive cover-up of investment losses. 19 former and current executives are being sued and Olympus is seeking up to 3.6 billion yen ($47 million) in damages and all have to go to jail. Can Singapore do the same to the Ministers…..

  17. why are we paying our superscale admin service civil servants multi-million & we still need pay multi-million to ministers, to supervise the work of these superscale civil servants ?

  18. cos we are unique. if you disagree, you can always form a political party, get yourself voted in, and change the system.

  19. pranie w on

    The president only 3.4 and what it looks like in other countries? I will not wait for an answer , because it is the data from 2012. I go clean up the car – szoruj

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