Satirical posters depicting Singapore ministers as Crazy Rich Asians go viral online

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Some netizens have been circulating posters depicting Singapore ministers as Crazy Rich Asians, after the latest Hollywood film that is set in Singapore.

Based on a novel by Singaporean author Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians focuses on the escapades of wealthy families in Singapore and stars Singaporean and Malaysian actors alongside Hollywood names like Michelle Yeoh and Ken Jeong.

Making a comment on the high ministerial pay politicians here receive, some netizens are circulating the following satirical posters on social media and on messaging applications like WhatsApp:

High ministerial pay has always been a hot button topic in Singapore, especially in contrast to the wages regular folks receive and the rising cost of living they have to contend with.

Compounded by stories of the elderly and the needy struggling to survive and given the perception that it is difficult to receive timely help from government programmes, like the current public healthcare insurance scheme, Singaporeans have pointed out that the nation’s leaders’ pay packets have grown considerably even while some in society grow more and more desperate.

Recently, it was alleged that the Prime Minister’s salary has grown by a whopping 5238 per cent since 1965 has been circulating online. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s salary has grown significantly since Singapore gained independence in 1965.

In 1965, Singapore’s founding Prime Minister – the late Lee Kuan Yew who was then known as the Chief Minister – earned a monthly fixed salary of $3,500. This means that he was paid $42,000 annually.

In 1973, the Prime Minister’s salary was bumped up to a monthly sum of $9,500 while other ministers started to earn $7,000 – nearly double the $4,500 they used to earn – following a ministerial salary review. $9,500 and $7,000 in 1973 roughly translates to $27,742 and $20,441 respectively in 2016 when adjusted for inflation.

Then, 20 years later in 1994, the first framework for ministerial salaries came into play. The policy, which saw ministers being paid two-thirds of what the top four earners from six professions in the private sector earn, caused ministerial salaries to balloon.

This is still nowhere near what Lee’s son, Singapore’s third and current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, earns.

Ten years after the ministerial salary framework was released, Lee Hsien Loong took over the reins of the nation from his father’s successor, now-Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. In 2007, Lee Hsien Loong’s annual salary climbed to a whopping $3,090,000 under this framework.

And then, the unthinkable happened. In 2011, the ruling party lost a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to the opposition and public support for the People’s Action Party (PAP) slipped.

In 2012, for possibly the first time ever, Singapore’s ministers took a pay cut. An independent committee reviewed the ministerial salary scheme and recommended the following salary cuts:

  • President’s annual salary to be slashed by 51 per cent to $1.54 million;
  • Prime Minister’s annual salary to be cut by 36 per cent to $2.2 million, along with the removal of pension;
  • Full minister’s (MR4 level) annual salary to be reduced by 37 per cent to $1.1 million, along with the removal of pension;
  • Prime Minister’s salary to be pegged to double the MR4 salary;
  • MP’s annual allowance to be cut by 3 per cent to $192,500; and
  • The entry MR4 minister’s salary to be benchmarked to the median income of the top 1,000 earners who are Singapore citizens, with a 40 per cent discount.

The Government accepted the committee’s proposal. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s annual salary was slashed to $2.2 million, where it has remained for the last six years.

In 2017, a committee formed by PM Lee to review ministerial salaries recommended that political salaries be adjusted to reflect “annual benchmark movements,” given a 9 per cent rise in benchmark salaries.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said this year that ministerial pay will remain the same for now and will be reviewed again in five years: “… since the scheme remains valid and the economy is still in transition, we will not change anything now and will maintain the current salary structure and level. We will review the matter again after five years or when it becomes necessary.”

Despite the fact that PM Lee’s pay has not increased over the past six years, he still remains one of the highest paid political leaders in the world.