Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek’s CEO Ho Ching’s salary continues to remain a mystery, even as she defended her husband Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s high salary on social media, this week.
Yesterday, Mdm Ho shared an article by Seedly.com on her personal Facebook page. The article pointed out that PM Lee is the world’s highest paid political leader, earning an annual sum of $2.2 million a year, and attempted to deconstruct why he is paid so highly.
Sharing the article on her Facebook wall, Mdm Ho commented that although she has “no view one way or other about who deserves what,” she does have a view on comparison charts that compare her husband’s high salary to the pay earned by other world leaders.
Mdm Ho defended that Singapore has a “big difference” from other countries since it employs a “clean wage system” where civil servants and political office-holders do not receive perks of any other kind except their salaries.
Asserting that those in public service or social service must have the right heart, passion, commitment, wisdom, knowledge foresight and capabilities, Mdm Ho declared: “Having these qualities of excellence, we must not take advantage of them to underpay, or require them to wear hair suits for a show of sainthood.”
While Mdm Ho was quick to defend her husband’s pay, her own salary as CEO of Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek remains a secret. The secrecy surrounding Mdm Ho’s pay package provides much fodder for speculation – perhaps even more so than the pay her husband earns as head of government.
Last month, Temasek posted its returns that showed a rise in net portfolio value from $308 billion to $313 billion. The Government-linked organisation, which serves as the investment arm of the Singapore Government, declined to release details on their CEO’s salary.
Among those who questioned why Mdm Ho’s salary is a secret was Mdm Ho’s brother-in-law, Lee Hsien Yang – the younger brother of PM Lee and the youngest son of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Referring to the posting of results by the sovereign wealth fund, Mr Lee said, “no surprise that it still didn’t disclose Ho Ching’s salary,” and asked, “Why is it such a big secret?” Mr Lee linked an old article from The Independent to his Facebook post.
We had reported on a blog post by blogger Phillip Ang who called on Temasek to be transparent and speculated how much Mdm Ho could be earning based upon the salaries of other top earners in the industry. Mr Ang said “One thing for certain, Ho is unlikely to be paid lower than CEOs under her charge”.
Noting that one of the highest-paid Government-linked Company CEO is DBS Group’s Piyush Gupta – who took home over $11 million last year – Mr Ang pointed out that the person who had been selected to take over Temasek from Mdm Ho was already earning a salary of $54 million at his previous workplace.
That individual is Charles Goodyear. Although Temasek’s leadership succession plans did not succeed, Mr Ang pointed out: “Logically, Charles must have been offered more than his $54 million salary to quit BHP Billiton”.
He then calculated, “conservatively assuming Ho was earning $54 million then and had worked without any break, this works out to $147,945 a day or about 25 times of the PM’s salary.” After looking at the portfolio value of Temasek Holdings, Mr Ang speculated that Mdm Ho earns “about $300,000 a day”.
Mr Ang’s calculation, however, remains purely speculative as the Government and Temasek remain tight-lipped on Mdm Ho’s pay package.
Earlier, Workers’ Party Member of Parliament Png Eng Huat asked the Government to reveal details on whether there is a remuneration cap for the management at Temasek and GIC.
He also asked: “what is the range of total annual remuneration, including salary, annual and performance bonuses, paid to the top three highest paid executives in GIC and Temasek respectively.”
National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who also serves as Second Minister for Finance, replied to the parliamentary question saying:
“GIC and Temasek are commercially-run companies. The remunerations of their staff are therefore decided independently by their respective boards. The Government maintains an arms-length relationship with the companies and does not interfere in their operational decisions such as remuneration. Instead, we hold the boards accountable for their respective performances.
“Broadly speaking, both entities adopt remuneration frameworks that are based on performance and industry benchmarks. The salaries are benchmarked to the relevant markets and sectors where the entities compete for talent. This ensures that they can attract and retain capable people.
“The remuneration frameworks also aim to support and reinforce a prudent risk-taking culture. A portion of the remuneration in both entities is tied to long-term performance. This ensures that staff, including senior management, are rewarded for long-term sustained performance, rather than a focus on short-term gains.
“Ultimately, the Government evaluates the performance of the two entities based on their long-term returns, net of all expenses incurred. These figures are published in their annual reports, and they show that both GIC and Temasek have performed creditably under challenging market conditions.”
Mr Wong’s response drew sharp criticism and many Singaporeans lashed out at him for failing to provide direct answers to Mr Png’s questions. Reform Party chief Kenneth Jeyaretnam slammed Mr Wong’s answer as being “grossly arrogant and insulting to Singaporeans’ intelligence”.