The high ministerial salaries that ruling party politicians receive have been a hot button issue for years in Singapore. Presently, an entry-level minister earns S$1.1 million while Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is paid double that, S$2.2 million.
The uproar over high ministerial pay has intensified over the past few months after Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong declared at a recent community event that “ministers are not paid enough!” and that it is “very populist” to demand that ministerial pay be slashed.
PM Lee’s recent confirmation that political office-holders were paid a 4.1 months performance bonus in 2017 riled some Singaporeans further since many locals are contending with the ever-rising cost of living here – what with the hefty water price increase, electricity tariffs increase and impending Goods and Services Tax hike.
Compounded by stories of the elderly and the needy struggling to survive, Singaporeans on social media have pointed out that the nation’s leaders’ continue to earn hefty pay packets even while some in society grow more and more desperate.
It is amid this uproar that some netizens have pointed out that PM Lee is paid 40 times the salary an average Singaporean earns.
According to official figures released by the Ministry of Manpower, Singaporeans working full-time earned an average of S$4,232 a month or $50,784 for 12 months in 2017. PM Lee, in contrast, earned a S$2.2 million base salary in 2017.
This means that the Prime Minister earns just over 43.4 times the salary an average Singaporean working full-time was paid last year.
A look at the 34 countries that are a part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – an international group that aims to “promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world” – shows that the heads of government in these countries do not have an over 40x salary difference with their citizens.
The top ten nations with the highest disparity between the pay of heads of governments and average citizen salary only show a 10-6x difference:
Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico – earns 10x the average salary in Mexico
Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia – earns 10x average salary in Australia
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand – earns 8x average salary in NZ
Alain Berset, President of Switzerland – earns 8x average salary in Switzerland
Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany – earns 8x average salary in Germany
Sebastian Kurz, Chancellor of Austria – earns 7x average salary in Austria