The ugly truth behind LKY’s justification for high ministerial salaries

By: Phillip Ang

More than 2 decades ago, LKY had wanted to increase ministerial salaries – including his of course – and impressed upon Singaporeans that PAP elites deserved very high salaries.

LKY: “The government today – ministers, cabinet ministers, parliamentary secretaries, political secretaries, everybody – cost $17 million a year”. LKY had argued that PAP was able to grow our then $90 billion GDP at 8% annually and therefore being paid $17 million was peanuts.

LKY should have known that “everybody” included directors and CEOs of stat boards, Temasek, GIC, corporatised government bodies and even the 5 jiak liao bee mayors. “Everybody” should have also included top management of GLCs because these positions are an extension of the civil service, being reserved for retired civil servants.

An increase in ministerial salaries would mean higher salaries trickling down PAP’s greedy food chain, ultimately costing hundreds of millions in tax dollars. To use the figure of ”$17 million” was most disingenuous of LKY; this was clearly a half truth.

Fact: High ‘GDP growth’ resulted mostly from increased property prices. Increased property prices –> Increased labour cost, price of all goods and services = Increased GDP.

If not for the PAP-engineered property bubble, our GDP would probably have been way below US$300 billion.

Since there was no corresponding productivity growth, our GDP growth is at best an illusion created by PAP. And we are now in deep shit.

If PAP had merely increased ministerial salaries without any salary increase down its food chain, there would have been a revolt. An estimate of the current Singapore Inc’s top management salary: $367 million. The figures below are very conservative estimates.

PAP Salary.jpg

The number of perm secs and SMOS/MOS has been increasing like nobody’s business. For example, Koh Poh Koon and former PPS to LKY, Chee Hong Tat were made MOS overnight.

PAP Salary (2).jpg
Temasek and GIC are of course the biggest leeches, paying hundreds of millions in tax dollars to themselves each year. Both SWFs contribute billions in direct taxes and legislations had to bend backwards to ensure profitability for GLCs. LKY should not have conveniently ignored their significant contributions to our GDP growth.

Even the CEOs and directors of GLCs are all PAP appointees and their salaries should be considered part of the cost of running Singapore. This again runs into hundreds of million$ or more likely, above $1 billion.

If today’s real cost of running Singapore easily exceeds $1 billion annually, it couldn’t have cost only “$17 million” back in 1993. The number of people involved to increase the GDP by $6 billion/8% yearly required more than LKY’s ‘everybody’.

LKY had told too many half truths and it’s about time they come to light. Hopefully, someone is able to compile a list for Singaporeans to see LKY for who he really was: a master in telling half truths.

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