Heavyweight reporter at Mediacorp’s Channel NewsAsia, Bharati Jagdish, has reportedly resigned over the recent ministerial salaries misinformation saga that gripped the nation.
The confusion over how much ministers are actually paid, including bonuses, erupted on 10 September when Workers’ Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera asked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Parliament what the total bonuses paid to ministers over the past five years are.
Choosing to answer the question via a written reply, PM Lee revealed that political office-holders received an average performance bonus of 4.1 months in 2017 and shared the average performance bonus figures from 2013-2017 in his response.
Many Singaporeans pointed out that the PM deftly skirted Perera’s question since the performance bonus is only one component out of four that make up the bonus package ministers receive each year.
Besides monthly pay and the performance bonus, political office-holders also receive a 13th month non-pensionable annual allowance, an annual variable component (AVC) as paid to civil servants and a National Bonus linked to Singapore’s economic growth.
Netizens also noted that Perera had asked for the bonus figures that were awarded to ministers and PM Lee curiously chose to use the term “political office-holders” in his response, noting that political office-holders also refers to elected politicians who are not yet full ministers.
PM Lee’s response sparked severe backlash from Singaporeans who urged the Government to be transparent about what ministers earn.
20 days after Perera posed his question on bonuses to PM Lee, sparking public uproar over the lack of transparency, top Mediacorp news presenter Bharati Jagdish interviewed Ho Kwon Ping – the executive chairman of Singapore-based leisure business group, Banyan Tree Holdings – on her noted ‘On The Record’ programme.
During the interview, published on CNA on 30 Sept, Ho Kwon Ping remarked that his salary is lower than that of ministers. The CNA report went on to state that Ho’s salary, inclusive of bonus and benefits, comes up over S$2.5 million.
The wording on the article seemed to imply that if Ho’s claims that he is paid less than what ministers earn, ministers actually earn a lot more than the S$1.1 million for entry-level ministers and the S$2.2 million for the Prime Minister, when bonuses are included.
A day after the CNA interview came out, on 1 Oct, Perera questioned the Government in Parliament again on the bonuses paid to ministers. In response, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean asserted that entry-level ministers are paid S$1.1 million and the PM is paid S$2.2 million, inclusive of bonuses, according to the 2012 ministerial salary framework.
In his address in parliament, DPM Teo relied on the CNA interview with Ho Kwon Ping and lambasted Ho’s statement that he is paid less than ministers as a misrepresentation that could lead to widespread misinformation.
He said: “The subject of ministerial salaries is a difficult one to talk about, an emotional one. There are misconceptions, sometimes deliberately propagated. It is easily politicised. Even knowledgeable, well-meaning people who have a deep interest in politics can be susceptible to this.”
Unfortunately, DPM Teo interpreted the poorly-worded article’s statement that Ho’s salary comes up over S$2.5 million with bonuses to mean that the interview pointed out to Ho that he earns a lot more than ministers. He said:
“I read Mr Ho Kwon Ping’s extensive interview with CNA, which was published yesterday. Among other things, he suggested pegging Ministerial salaries to the median salary of Singaporeans. He also suggested an independent Commission to decide the actual quantum. And Mr Louis Ng, in an earlier similar interview, also suggested that there should be public consultations…
“…But even Mr Ho, who is well-informed and has a deep interest in politics, has some serious misconceptions. He claimed, for example, that his salary is lower than the Ministers.
“Sir, fortunately, the interviewer had checked, done the homework, and pointed out to Mr Ho that his salary, including benefits and bonus – I would not mention the figure, but it is significantly higher than that of Ministers and certainly not lower than Minister’s salaries.
“Sir, otherwise the misrepresentation could have been carried widely and spread more disinformation.”
That same day, Ho Kwon Ping clarified to another Mediacorp-run publication TODAY, that he was not corrected by the reporter during the interview and that he was referring to basic salaries, not total compensation as suggested by the reporter.
Five days after Ho’s clarification and DPM Teo’s interpretation, CNA edited the original interview article. The publication added a note to clarify that the report did not actually highlight Mr Ho’s total compensation during the interview and merely added it into the article after the interview:
Socio-political website The Online Citizen reported that Bharati Jagdish “was forced to resign for ‘making a fabrication’ in her article,” according to an anonymous source that tipped the publication off.
CNA later told TOC that Jagdish left by her own decision and was not forced to resign. Jagdish could not be reached for comment.
According to Jagdish’s LinkedIn page, she has been a radio journalist and news presenter for the last 17 years and joined Mediacorp’s 938 LIVE radio station in 2006. She has hosted Channel 5 television programmes since 2008 and joined CNA’s Digital News desk last year.
Netizens responding to TOC’s report opined that it appears as though Jagdish was left without the job for “embarrassing DPM Teo” with the confusing On The Record article:
euko82: Report wrongly that confuses minister = kana sack. Contaminate multiple patients with Hep C virus causing deaths = no blame culture
SpinFire: I always hear Bharati Jagdish news report on the radio. Until quite recently, she was replaced by another reporter who spoke quite badly on the radio. Another loss of talent due to politics. But hey, she’s better off in another country
matrix05: Nice. She is somewhere between PLP and putting up fake news. Too bad, this has resulted in embarrassing the DPM.