Singapore to slash ministers’ million-dollar pay

January 4, 2012 6:02 am


Lee Hsien Loong's salary is four times that of US President Barack Obama/FILE
SINGAPORE, Jan 4 – Singapore will slash its top politicians’ unpopular multimillion-dollar salaries by at least a third, a new salary scale showed on Wednesday, but its ministers will stay among the best paid in the world.

The cuts were promised by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to appease public anger after a landmark general election in 2011, and he himself will take a 36 percent pay reduction to Sg$2.2 million ($1.69 million).

That is still believed to be the highest salary of any elected head of government in the world – more than four times as much as Barack Obama, who earns $400,000 a year as president of the United States.

Singapore’s largely ceremonial president will see his own salary reduced by 51 percent to Sg$1.54 million.

The cuts will be retroactive to the start of the current government’s five-year term on May 21, 2011 and new guidelines will peg pay to the well-being of ordinary Singaporeans.

The People’s Action Party (PAP), which led Singapore to independence from Malaysia in 1965 and has ruled ever since, has been on the defensive since its share of votes cast in the 2011 election fell to 60 percent, an all-time low.

Only a controversial system of electing most of the 87 parliamentary seats in clusters instead of individually – a scheme seen as favouring the better-organised PAP – capped the opposition’s victory at six seats.

When he was sworn in for a new five-year term two weeks after the vote, Lee’s first policy announcement was a review of ministers’ salaries.

Since the mid-1990s, Singapore cabinet salaries have been pegged to two-thirds of the income of the top four earners in six fields: banking, accountancy, engineering, law, manufacturing and multinational corporations.

This meant ministers’ pay could still rise despite economic recessions, stoking public anger as the income gap between rich and poor Singaporeans widened through the years.

The new pay scale was unveiled by Gerard Ee, a respected charity leader who headed the seven-month review.

“The report represents a new benchmark and a new salary framework with a formula that has both a fixed and a variable component linked to individual performance and national outcomes,” Ee told a news conference.

“Four indicators or national outcomes have been chosen with three linked directly to the socio-economic progress of Singapore citizens.”


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