Online Petition

Posted: August 5, 2009 by fievel in Labels: , ,

Recently I read that a bunch of Singaporean students managed to start an online petition to get what they wanted - Cheaper transfort fares for tertiary students. 5200 tertiary students supported the online petition.

Yet another bunch managed to implore their school into a week long recess in view of the H1N1 outbreak.

And so the idea struck me. Hey! The one big protest I hear from Singaporeans over and over again, everywhere, online, offline, is that our ministers are paying themselves too much salary! Why then do we not have an online petition for that? Sensing there might already be an existing website for such online petitions, I did my googling as usual...and found that there is indeed an existing website, in fact, there is an existing petition (and it's still ongoing) against Ministers' pay hike when it was first "proposed" to the citizens in April 2007.

Guess how many people have since signed this petition? 3233 up till now.. I do not for a moment doubt that an overwhelming majority of Singaporeans will like to see the Ministers take a pay cut, not a pay hike. It is the lack of publicity and perhaps some amount of fear that is curbing this petition from running its full potential.

At the petition website, you can read what comments other petitioners have left. Below is a small extraction for your sampling.

Jerica Tan
How much MONEY is one needed for leading a comfortable life? 30K a Month? 50K? or 100K or 1000000000K???? I can not think of any justification at all!! Most people here in Singapore are earning say between 1.5K - 3K a month, so most people can not imagine why our "LEADERS" need soooooo much MONEY???

Tony Lim
Already out of the world salary, they want out of the universe salary? If MONEY is the only motivation factor for our "LEADERS", than I am very sad & worried for Singapapore!!

We shouldn't be paying them more the keep honest, they should be honest right from the start. If they need to be paid more just to stay honest, I think it's time we find someone else whos honestly can't be bought.

Use the correct benchmark! Peg pay to ministers of other countries. Or is the govt implying that the ministers of all other countries are corrupt/incompetent because they don't earn as much as our learned ministers!

I think the benchmark is flawed as the component salaries are based on the top earners in their professions and not necessarily reflective of the overall industry. Furthermore, the risks undertaken by ministers are underwritten by the Singapore taxpayer while the risks taken by a doctor or lawyer or banker are not. I also believe the massive salaries diminishes the spirit of public service that should be fostered in the Cabinet.

If you find that you, your friends and/or your family members, do feel the same way about this matter, I hope you will join the petition and forward the petition link to your friends. Alternatively you can also forward this blog post to them using the forwarding function.

Say no to $2M minister salaries. Support the online petition! Go to PETITIONONLINE now!

Here is a Reuters news article dated April 5, 2007, regarding the pay hike.

Singapore ministers set for million-dollar pay hike
Thu Apr 5, 2007 2:51pm EDT
By Koh Gui Qing

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The salary of the prime minister of Singapore is more than three times that of U.S. President George Bush and about four times that of Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. But that is not enough.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong may soon be getting a hefty pay rise as part of a controversial ministerial salary hike that has infuriated many Singaporeans.

Lee, who is estimated to earn about S$2 million (669,265 pounds) per year, said last month that the salaries of Singapore ministers, top public officials and judges have fallen way below benchmark private sector salaries and may need to be doubled.

"It is critical for us to keep these salaries competitive, so as to be able to bring in a continuing flow of able and successful people," Lee said in a speech in March.

Lee said that Singapore ministers, who currently earn about S$1.2 million a year, should be earning S$2.2 million. Details of the new ministerial salaries will be announced in parliament on April 9.

Since 1994, the salaries of Singapore ministers have been set at two-thirds the median pay of the 48 best-paid bankers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and executives in multi-nationals and manufacturing firms.

But the latest salary hike, which comes at a time when income disparity in Singapore is wider than ever, has sparked an outpour of unusually blunt criticism from Singaporeans.

Hundreds have signed an online petition and the readers' letter columns of the state-controlled newspapers -- one of the few outlets for dissenting views in the city-state -- have published a series of letters protesting the planned hike.


Some Singaporeans argue that the six lucrative professions on which ministers' salaries are based do not reflect the country's economy or the government's performance.

"No matter what happens to the economy, the government always wins because it takes only the best results," Jacob Tan said in a letter to the Straits Times.

And given that a 2 percentage point rise in sales tax from July will further hit the poor, some said the government plan is tactless.

"I am rather disappointed with the government's insensitivity," reader Vanessa Teo said.

But the sharpest criticism was online. The "awesome raise on top of their already obscene pay is completely unjustifiable," read an online petition that has gathered 304 signatures.

Given the rare public outcry, analysts said the government may now hesitate to raise salaries by the full S$1 million.

"I would be surprised if they implemented the full formula that would give them over S$2 million," said Garry Rodan, director of the Asia Research Centre at Murdoch University.

The government defends the high salaries as necessary to attract the brightest people and to prevent corruption.

"If we don't do that ... corruption will set in and we will become like many other countries," Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean was quoted as saying in the Straits Times last week.

Singapore government officials' salaries are set by different wage formulas, depending on their seniority. The figures are not readily available to the public, but the prime minister earned S$1.94 million in 2000, according to the Straits Times.

Ministers' wages were last raised in 2000, but were cut in 2001 and 2003 during the economic downturn, although the cuts have since been reversed, the Public Service Division said.


Some argue that Singapore ministers are not overpaid, but that ministers elsewhere are underpaid.

Singapore is an oasis of wealth, peace and law and order in a region rife with poverty, violence and corruption.

The island state is Asia's second-richest country after Japan, with a gross domestic product per capita of about $31,000 (15,695 pounds).

The World Economic Forum ranks Singapore as the fifth-most competitive of 125 economies in 2006, while Transparency International said the city-state was the fifth-most corruption-free nation out of 163. Isn't that worth a price?

"According to a Chinese proverb, an able general is worth more than 10,000 foot soldiers. So too is the worth of our leaders if they have the wisdom to help us weather global competition," reader Yik Keng Yeong said.

But critics say that the prosperity and security enjoyed by Singaporeans are not that different from other Asian first-world economies such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan, where government ministers do not command such high salaries.

Finland, for instance, beat Singapore in the WEF and Transparency International polls -- as second-most competitive and most corruption-free country -- but its Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen earns about a sixth of Lee's estimated salary.

What irks Singapore's opposition parties is that the million-dollar salaries are only accessible to members of Lee's ruling People's Action Party. Opposition politicians have been crippled by defamation lawsuits brought by government ministers and no opposition party has ever held a ministerial post.

The opposition also argues that a million-dollar pay hike is unwarranted for leaders of a country that has no legal minimum wage and where 20 percent of the population earns an average monthly salary of S$1,500.

But Lee Kuan Yew -- modern Singapore's first prime minister, who is still the leading voice in his son's cabinet -- will have none of it.

"The cure to all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government," Lee senior told the Straits Times on Thursday, adding that it is "absurd" for Singaporeans to quarrel about ministerial pay and warning that Singapore would suffer it the government could not pay competitive salaries.

"Your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people's countries," he said.

(Additional reporting by Sakari Suoninen in Helsinki, Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo, Joanne Allen in Washington)

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