By: S Karthigesu
PM Lee Hsien Loong in justifying the high salaries paid to Ministers in Jan 2012 said that it was necessary because when they leave office, they do not have the luxury of making millions of dollars like their counterparts in other parts of the developed world. This is what Mr Lee said:
“So Singapore is different from them (other countries which pay their political leaders much less than Singapore). I do not need to go into details but I will just skim through quickly. You look at the US – the President is paid less than me. Yes. And the last time I had the revision, the newspapers reported a certain anonymous high level resident of the White House saying that he wished he was paid the same. But the high level resident of the White House travels in Air Force One, lives in the White House, vacations at Camp David. And after they retire, they earn many times their salaries. All they have to do is to turn up for an appearance, make a few remarks, a hundred thousand dollars a time.
In three years, George Bush has earned US$15 million since retiring; Bill Clinton who retired a decade ago has earned US$75 million. His fees are about US$200,000 each time. And it is not just the President, but it is a revolving door system for many of their top officials. People who come in, serve a short while, go back out and often go back out to be lobbyists and consultants or to serve in the industries and businesses which relate to what they were working on when they were inside – whether it is defence, whether it is communications, whether it is energy. And so, you lead to conflicts of interests.” (link: http://bit.ly/2971KoH)
To see if this is true, let’s look at some of the PAP MPs and Ministers who vacated their office since 2011.
A few months after losing the 2011 GE, Mr Yeo who was Singapore’s Foreign Minister prior, joined the Kerry Group headed by Robert Kuok as its Vice-Chairman. This is what Mr Yeo said when he joined Kerry Group:
“(After 2011 GE) I spent four months at (Peking University) as a visiting scholar. During this period, Mr Robert Kuok, who heard I was thinking of the presidency, said ‘Don’t do it; it’s not for you.’ Now Mr Robert Kuok, I knew since 1989. He was in Singapore and he asked a friend, he said “Introduce to some of the new ministers.” So he hosted me to a dinner at the Shangri-la hotel, and as a young man at 34, 35 years old, I was very flattered, because he was a big name. But I found him to be very deep and wise…
I would never have asked him for a job. A Singaporean friend asked him, ‘Why not offer George a job?’ and he knew me, so he did. I said, ‘What am I going to do?’ And he said, ‘You just join first, round pegs will find round holes,’ he said. We didn’t even negotiate a contract at the time!”
So George Yeo joined one of Robert Kuok’s companies without even knowing what he was going to do.
Who is Robert Kuok? This is how one blog describes the man:
“Let me tell you another tale about Robert Kuok. At one time he bought over the old site of the Great World (an amusement center near River Valley Singapore). He wanted to develop it and submitted plans to the Singapore Govt which imposed very high fees on his project. He abandoned the project, and moved all his Singapore operations to Hong Kong and China.
One year Deng Xiao Peng paid a visit to Singapore, and LKY invited Deng to an official dinner. Deng had one request to LKY to invite Robert Kuok to join.LKY did just that, and Robert Kuok flew in the same day to join the dinner.” (link: http://bit.ly/29fmtHk)
So if the blog describing Robert Kuok is true, Mr Yeo got a job from a man recommended to Mr Lee Kuan Yew by Mr Deng Xiopeng. Mr Yeo was in awe of Mr Kuok, and Mr Kuok just asked him to join without even telling him what the job is.
How fortunate is Mr Yeo?
Mr Zainul was Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and after he lost the 2011 GE, he was appointed as Singapore’s Ambassador to The State of Israel, to The State of Kuwait and to The State of Qatar.
Lim Hwee Hua
Like Mr Yeo and Mr Zainul, Ms Lim was also ousted from office at GE 2011. Barely two months after losing her post as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ms Lim was appointed as a non-executive director at Jardine Cycle & Carriage.
The Deputy Chairman of Jardine Cycle & Carriage is Boon Yoon Chiang. He is also the Chairman/Managing Director of Jardine Matheson Singapore Ltd. Mr Boon worked as the press officer to Mr S Rajaratnam (a founding Minister of Singapore) before leaving the Ministry to work with Jardine Group. Mr Boon is also a Director of the Employment & Employability Institute, a subsidiary of the Singapore Labour Foundation (link: http://bit.ly/299Ud9S), and is also Member of the Competition Appeal Board.
Ms Cynthia Phua
After losing the 2011 GE, Ms Phua who was an MP at Aljunied GRC, continued in her job as the General Manager of NTUC Fairprice Co-operative Ltd (link: http://bit.ly/296QJiu).
Ong Ye Kung
Mr Ong made a debut as PAP’s candidate in GE 2011. He contested in Aljunied GRC, but lost. After losing the contest, he went on to hold several posts including as independent director of SMRT, as Chairman of Employment & Employability Institute and as Director of Keppel Corporation, before riding on the coattails of Minister Khaw Boon Wan to be elected from the constituency of Sembawang. He is now the Minister for Education
(Higher Education and Skills).
Lui Tuck Yew
And as another writer pointed out in TISG, Mr Lui who resigned as Transport Minister before GE 2015, found employment as a director in a company founded and run by grassroots leaders. The company said that it has “reviewed, assessed and concluded that Mr Lui Tuck Yew possesses the requisite qualifications and work experiences” to be its independent director. But at the same time, it also said that it would arrange for Mr Lui to “receive relevant training to familiarise himself with the role and responsibilities of a director”. (link: http://bit.ly/29kIMcl)
From George Yeo to Lui Tuck Yew, there is enough evidence that Ministers who leave public office will not suffer from not being able to find a job to feed their families. Even if our Ministers are not savvy enough like their American counterparts “to turn up for an appearance, make a few remarks, (and earn) a hundred thousand dollars a time”, they certainly can continue to make millions even after leaving office.
In raising carpark charges recently Minister Lawrence Wong justified it by saying that it has to be benchmarked against cities in first world countries. If carpark charges must be benchmarked against first world cities in developed world, why not the salaries of Ministers?