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Singapore: Ministers to Take a Pay Cut

Singapore's government ministers are some of the highest paid in the world, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong famously earning more than Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy combined. Although the government has often defended the high salaries, saying that it attracts the best talent and prevents corruption, their pay packets have gained the resentment of many Singaporeans, further fueling accusations of the divide between the governing elite and the people.

High ministerial pay was a hot issue in the 2011 General Elections, and after the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) won with their lowest vote share in history, Prime Miniser Lee convened a committee to review ministerial salaries. The committee has recently submitted their finished report to the prime minister, and a press conference was called on 4 January, 2012, to reveal the committee's recommendations to the public.

Unlike in the General and Presidential elections where efforts were made to engage with new media, news wires, online media and bloggers were not allowed to attend the press conference. Only local media – referring to Singapore's state-owned media organisations Singapore Press Holdings and MediaCorp – were invited.

@tocsg: MICA-approved local media (SPH, MediaCorp) are already at NKF building for the press conference for unveiling the ministerial salary report.

This move by the government raised questions and suspicions of media spin:

@vinyarb: how come no news on the ministerial salary yet ah? post con meeting to agree to what to write?

President Tony Tan Keng Yam

President Tony Tan Keng Yam

However, reports soon came out announcing recommendations of fairly hefty cuts – a 36% pay cut for the prime minister, and a 51% pay cut for the president, among other things.

Prime Minister Lee, who used to earn S$3 million (approximately US$2.3 million), will now earn about S$2.2 million (approximately US$1.7 million). The president, who used to earn more than the prime minister, will now earn less at about S$1.54 million (approximately US$1.2 million).

Although Singaporeans were pleased to hear that the government is set to accept these recommended cuts, many still noted that Singaporean leaders are still among the highest paid in the world. Netizens react using the #ministerpaycut hashtag

@mrbrown: Obama ruminates on the Singapore #ministerpaycut

@BeccaDBus: Hmm, no mention of cuts for MPs. Only ministers. Really? y'all think TPL is worth 15K monthly? really?

@qwm82: The fact that it is pegged to the top 1000 earners means that it is still seriously flawed #ministerpaycut

@RealSingaporean: After the #ministerpaycut, the easiest way to become a millionaire in Singapore, is still to join politics.

Some Singaporeans feel that on top of the pay cut, the attitude towards being in government should change.

@jiw3n: Paycut or not, you're elected by us to serve/ lead us. You don't do it for the money. You do it because you want to. #ministerpaycut

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