Ministers’ pay falsehoods: Govt is to blame?


Why can’t the Government be simply transparent by disclosing the actual total yearly remuneration of Ministers, instead of talking about ‘falsehoods’ online?

I refer to the article “Government debunks online ‘falsehoods’ on ministerial salaries” (Channel NewsAsia, Sep 17).

It states that “The Government has moved to debunk what it described as “falsehoods” about ministerial salaries that have been circulating recently.

The Factually website, which is managed by the Public Communications Division of the Ministry of Communications and Information, said several websites and social media pages have “jumped on the issue” of ministerial salaries in recent weeks.

The website said one falsehood that has appeared online is that the Government is not upfront about how ministerial salaries are calculated.

Debunking this, the website said the pay components are set out in a White Paper, which was tabled in Parliament in 2012. The website also included a link to the White Paper.

The Factually website said an MR4 (entry-level) minister’s annual salary is S$1.1 million, including bonuses. It added: “If the minister doesn’t do well – and if the economy doesn’t do well – he may get well below S$1.1 million.”

Another falsehood, the website said, is that the Prime Minister is being paid S$2.2 million a year as a base salary, excluding bonuses, and that his total salary is S$4.5 million.

The Factually website said this, again, is false. It said: “The Prime Minister’s norm salary is set at two times that of an MR4 Minister. His S$2.2 million annual salary includes bonuses. The Prime Minister does not receive a Performance Bonus as there is no one to assess his performance annually. He does receive the National Bonus.””

The Government may arguably, have only itself to blame, for causing all the speculation about ministerial salaries online.

Why can’t it be just simply transparent by disclosing the highest, lowest and average total annual remuneration every year for the different grades of Ministers?

Instead of ‘vague’ media headlines like “Parliament: Political office holders received average performance bonus of 4 months’ salary in last 5 years” (Straits Times, Sep 10), which said that “Political office holders of all grades received an average annual performance bonus of around four months’ salary in the last five years, with the amount given to each individual ranging between three and six months of their pay each year …

The performance bonus is one of the components that make up the benchmark salaries of political office holders. The other components include their monthly salary, the 13th month non-pensionable annual allowance, national bonus, and annual variable component as paid to civil servants.”

Wouldn’t anyone reading the above media headline be somewhat confused – as the “average performance bonus of 4 months” does not include the “13th month non-pensionable annual allowance, national bonus, and annual variable component”?

Why not just simply be transparent and say in total – how many months extra, in addition to “their monthly salary” for the year?

By the way, since we are on the subject of falsehoods – is the following which has been appearing online a falsehood or not:

One of the criteria for the Ministers’ bonus – Singaporeans’ Unemployment Rate – this one may be the easiest one. Grant an average of about 20,000 new citizens every year – mostly working – so, Singaporeans’ Unemployment Rate (true-blue Singaporeans excluding new citizens) look lower than it actually is?

By the way, when do you think Singaporeans will ever get a table of the total annual remuneration of Ministers on a historical yearly basis?

Leong Sze Hian


About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.