Ministerial Pay Cut


The PAP government in Singapore seems to have listened to the call of voters last year by making substantial changes to the salary of the government. Some changes to be noted include the salary of the president being cut by 51% to 1.54 million a year, and the Prime Minister’s salary being cut by 36% to 2.2 million annually. In addition, the pension scheme, which pays civil servants after they retire, has now been removed. The MR4 pay will also now be pegged to the median income of the top 1,000 earners in Singapore, compared to the 48 in the past. In addition, the pay of the top civil servants will also be tied not only to the GDP growth, but to other factors such as unemployment and the salary of the bottom 20% of earners. This is already considered a great change in the income as a proportion.

Many people welcome this change when they were called up by the Straits Times, commenting that it was an important step towards change in the country. However, a considerable amount of people feel that the pay is still too much. Currently, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, is the top earner of the world’s civil servants. According to the New York Times, even after receiving this pay cut, he earns 3.1 times of the second in the list, 4 times of Obama’s pay, and an astonishing 46.6 times of India’s Prime Minister. Besides this, Mr Lee’s salary is more than the Prime Ministers of France, Germany and the UK put together! The people feel that the pay that the government still earns is more than they need and deserve. Grace Fu, a senior civil servant in Singapore put up a post on her blog, saying that she “had some grounds to believe that [her] family would not suffer a drastic change in the standard of living even though [she] experienced a drop in [her] income. So it is with this recent pay cut. If the balance is tilted further in the future, it will make it harder for any one considering political office.” This worked up the sentiments of the people. Mr Brown, a known online comedian in Singapore, put up a video recently to express these feelings. The video showed that the people felt Grace Fu was implying that she had sacrificed a lot in order to serve the country, when the people believed otherwise. In addition, people believed that public scrutiny, something which she claimed to have experience to serve Singaporeans, is part of being a politician. On top of these comments, the chairman of the committee which reviewed the salaries of the government, Mr Gerard Ee commented that he hoped that 1.1 million is enough to continue attracting the top talent to be civil servants. However, I feel that a starting salary of this amount is already a great amount, and even if the pay is 2 times the current amount, these top talents, the CEOs in the private sector, would still not transfer to the public sector. The opinion of the people is mostly positive, and they are welcoming the pay cut.

In my opinion, this ministerial pay cut is the right way to go. In the view of the PAP government, such a cut will bring about a better political image to Singaporeans as one that is willing to hear out and listen to the opinions of the people. Last year’s voting result showed the decrease in popularity of the PAP due to reasons such as the high pay of the ministers. This cut is thus likely to significantly increase the popularity of the party. From the point of view of the people, especially that of the younger generation, on the other hand, changes their view of the government. With the recent cuts to the salaries, there is now a better reason for the voters to believe that the PAP will listen to their suggestions in the future. I shall also express my opinion about the question raised regarding whether the MR4 salaries should be tied to the salaries of other countries or the bottom 20% of earners in Singapore. I believe that the latter choice is the better one. First of all, it is highly unfeasible to peg it to the salaries of other countries. There are many considerations that should come into place when deciding how the pay is pegged. Although Indonesia and Malaysia are bigger than Singapore, it does not necessarily mean that the job of the government in Singapore is easier than Indonesia and Malaysia. Even if it was, then how are we going to decide the proportion of pay that each government should get? On the other hand, having a fixed way to calculate the pay, like 100 times of the salary of the bottom 20% of earners in Singapore, as Low Thia Khiang proposes, is much easier to implement.

In conclusion, this pay cut may spell a change in the Singaporean government. This might change the general impression of the PAP to one which listens to the people and is more accepting towards the opinions and suggestions of the people. 

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Hi guys, I'm a student in Singapore, and this are some thoughts and essays I have written over the years.