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    Singapore: People Question Million Dollar Minister Salaries On Radio. http://www.singapore-window.org/sw04/040516st.htm Star, Malaysia May 16, 2004 Insight:
    Message 1 of 1 , May 21, 2004
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      Singapore: People Question Million Dollar Minister Salaries On Radio.

      http://www.singapore-window.org/sw04/040516st.htm

      Star, Malaysia
      May 16, 2004

      Insight: Down South
      By SEAH CHIANG NEE

      IT is direct and fast, with minimal self-censorship. This is Radio
      FM93.8, which is steadily becoming Singapore's favourite channel for
      airing views.

      Started in 1998, the city's only all-news station has been running an
      8am-9am Talk Back programme (Monday to Friday) during which listeners
      can call to discuss a chosen current topic.

      In its early days, the callers were mostly housewives or retirees
      chatting on a mundane, narrow range of subjects.

      Many of today's phone-ins are from better-informed professionals who
      are more articulate.

      These younger callers are ready to speak out. On many days, the
      topics reflect the troubled times and some of them are controversial.

      The station's pre-eminence is aided by two factors.

      Firstly, it fills a need among Singaporeans who want a medium to air
      their views, uncensored by overzealously "play safe" editors.

      Secondly, the newspapers have neither sufficient space nor
      inclination for frank public discussions on controversial subjects.

      To avoid getting into trouble, editors often prefer to publish
      letters that are least controversial or critical of the government or
      its policies.

      Newspapers cannot react as fast as radio. Talk Back can put on a
      debate almost immediately when interest is fresh.

      Last week, it started a discussion on the new controversial wage
      reform aimed at pegging salaries partly to economic conditions and a
      worker's performance.

      Called flex-wage, it makes 30% of pay variable for rank-and-file
      workers, 40% for middle management and half for top management.

      The government wants to implement it by year-end but many workers are
      worried they will lose out.

      One emotional caller said: "Our high-paying ministers should
      implement it on themselves to set an example to citizens. It is
      hypocritical if they exclude themselves."

      Probably wishing to dilute it, the radio host asked: "So you think
      the scheme should apply to top business executives and ministers?"

      The caller wanted none of this. "No, I said ministers. In the past
      they had set their action as an example for others to follow. Why
      can't they do it now?"

      Such attacks on high Cabinet pay will unlikely find itself in The
      Straits Times' forum pages.

      In the past, the programme had featured other controversial subjects,
      including the influx of foreign professionals, and rising cost of
      public services and public transport.

      Compared to radio forums in Hong Kong, Taiwan or even China (on
      certain subjects), Talk Back may be mild but by Singapore standards,
      it is an achievement.

      It lends some weight to government claims of an opening process.

      People who want to take part are first screened by the host who asks
      broadly what he or she wants to say. It is not known if anyone has
      been denied access.

      Once on air, it is rare for a speaker to be cut off because of what
      he says.

      Every Friday, FM93.8 runs Opinion between 9am and 10am in which the
      public can also call in to join discussions with an invited panel of
      guests to discuss local and foreign affairs.

      "We take the show on the road once a month and broadcast "live" from
      polytechnics, junior colleges and universities," said a spokesman.

      These shows are proving popular among Singaporeans who want to let
      off steam or to voice their antagonism towards policies but have no
      public means to do so.

      The primary objective of the major newspapers – the Straits Times and
      Lianhe Zaobao – is to disseminate and explain government policies to
      the people.

      The other role, of distributing people-to-government views, is much
      less evident. This enables radio to override the print media in a
      crucial aspect of journalism.

      One journalism lecturer puts it this way: "If you want to know what
      the government wants to tell the people, read the newspapers. If you
      want to hear what the people are telling the government, tune in to
      radio."

      Another growing provider of public feedback is the Internet.
      Opposition and anti-establishment individuals, plus a dozen or so
      vocal forums, serve a diet of wide-ranging, largely un-moderated,
      discussions 24 hours a day.

      Termed as the alternate media, the online challenge to the mainstream
      newspapers remains relatively feeble. It hasn't reached the impact of
      its peers in other advanced cities.

      One reason? Many participants are anonymous, ill-informed and very
      young (many are teens) who use it to let off emotional steam against
      opposing views rather than participate in reasoned debates.

      However, with some 2.247 million or 56% of the population (last
      count) having access to it, the Internet has the biggest potential
      for growth.

      As surfers mature, the worldwide web will one day become a powerful,
      more credible, tool to mould public opinion. Its influence is growing
      almost daily.

      A new phenomenon is appearing on the scene – weblogs. There are
      millions of individual sites operated by bloggers (as they are
      called) to comment on current issues.

      Most writings are shorter, less formal and readable. Some are diary-
      like, motivated by a cause or a desire to communicate ideas to
      others. Their readers range from a few close friends to a wide
      audience of tens of thousands of visits a day.

      Many Net-savvy Singaporeans have joined in the fun but, unlike
      elsewhere, not many care to talk politics.

      The Straits Times (circulation about 390,000) will likely maintain
      its top position but as the others grow, its influence among the
      population will decline.

      Despite its monopoly as the only broadsheet English national daily in
      Singapore, its penetration rate of 45% remains surprisingly poor. The
      major Chinese-language daily, Lianhe Zaobao, takes some 29%.

      For more liberal-minded youths, the media scene does not reflect
      Singapore's image as a First World cosmopolitan city.

      Its media policies cause a ranking equivalent to many developing
      Asian and African countries.

      Recently, Information Minister Lee Boon Yang, warned journalists not
      to mix commentary with news reporting which, if followed, will be a
      further deviance from the global democratic practice.

      DPM Lee Hsien Loong, who will soon become Prime Minister, frowned
      on "crusading journalism". He said: "Newspapers are to report the
      news, explain what is going on and take a national view and not a
      partisan view."

      o Seah Chiang Nee is a veteran journalist and editor of the
      information website littlespeck.com (e-mail: cnseah2000@
      littlespeck.com )

      -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Commentary on Ministers pay cut
      Singapore Review, 2 May 2003
      By Mellanie Hewlitt

      The headlines blared loudly in the 2 May 2003 issues of the Straits Times and
      Business Times "Pay cut? Ministers ready to lead by example: DPM", announcing
      to the entire world this selfless act of leadership by Singapore's Ruling
      Elite.

      In what appeared to be an initial move to reduce severely inflated salaries, to
      more reasonable industry standards, Singapore's Ruling Elite have bowed to
      public pressure and hinted at accepting a pay cut.

      Or have they?

      What exactly does "Leading By Example" mean? Lets try to put some substance
      behind those brave words. As of last count, average take home pay of a
      Singapore minister was well in excess of SGD100,000/- a month.

      The below table puts things back in proper perspective: (these are basic
      figures as of July 2000 and did not include last year's pay hikes or other
      benefits. Otherwise the updated numbers may well be much larger)

      1. Singapore Prime Minister's Basic Salary US$1,100,000 (SGD1,958,000) a year
      Minister's Basic: US$655,530 to US$819,124 (SGD1,166,844 to SGD1,458,040) a
      year

      2. United States of America President: US$200,000 Vice President: US$181,400
      Cabinet Secretaries: US$157,000

      3. United Kingdom Prime Minister: US$170,556 Ministers: US$146,299 Senior Civil
      Servants: US$262,438

      4. Australia Prime Minister: US$137,060 Deputy Prime Minister: US$111,439
      Treasurer: US$102,682

      5. Hong Kong Chief Executive : US$416,615 Top Civil Servant: US$278,538
      Financial Sec: US$315,077

      Source: Asian Wall Street Journal July 10 2000

      In relative terms, less then 20% of Singaporeans here have take home salaries
      exceeding SGD100,000/- A YEAR.

      In stark contrast, BASIC SALARY FOR A MINISTER STARTS AT SGD1,166,844 A YEAR,OR
      JUST UNDER SGD100,000 A MONTH.

      What these ministers earns in just ONE MONTH exceeds the ANNUAL TAKE HOME
      salary of 80% of Singapore's income earning population. Lets not even begin to
      compare annual packages which will exceed SGD1 million easily.

      With the above numbers and figures now in perspective, it is easier to give
      substance to the words "leading by example". Several facts are noteworthy here;

      a) That the ministerial salaries are grossly out of proportion, even when
      compared with their counterparts in much larger countries (US and UK) who have
      far heavier responsibilities.

      b) That these salary reductions were long overdue. In the past, such handsome
      remuneration were "justified" on the back of resounding performance. However,
      Singapore's economy has been in the doldrums of a recession for several years
      now (with beginnings reaching as far back as the 1997 Asian economic crisis).
      This economic barometer is a rough measure of performance and implies that
      ministerial salaries were due for review at least 3-4 years ago.

      c) That adjustments should be made to bring them back within the industry
      benchmarks. Taking the salary of US vice president as a rule of thumb, the
      percentage for reductions should start at 50% of current pay. Even if a
      Singapore minister takes a 50% pay-cut, he would still be earning much more
      then the US vice president.

      d) The percentage reductions should greater then 50% if the intent is to bring
      the salaries within the perspective of Singapore's domestic scene.

      With such inflated figures, it is understandable why the local government
      controlled media (Singapore Press Holdings) have taken pains to exclude mention
      of actual numbers for the world to see. The numbers would be too glaring and no
      amount of window dressing or creative writing could have reconciled these
      numbers with a sane figure and restored credibility.

      It is unlikely that Singapore's Ruling Elite will accept such huge salary cuts.
      Exactly How much and when the ministerial pay-cuts takes effect is not
      revealed. Ask any man on the street and 9 out of 10 responses indicate many
      agree the current ministerial salaries are grossly inflated, especially in
      these lean and difficult times.

      Said a long time forumer from an internet political chat group:
      "First of all the Ministers are NOT leading on pay cut. Workers' salaries have
      been drastically reduced since the beginning of the recession while thousands
      have been unemployed. so the Ministers are NOT LEADING. they are only CATCHING
      UP. And they have several decades to catch up on."

      "Secondly, how much of a pay cut will Ministers take? 10%? 20%? unless its a
      cut that will affect their lifestyles, it is merely symbolic and they would
      still not know what it feels like to be a normal worker. as such, this is not
      Leading by Example. Its just another bogus political propaganda stunt"

      A 29 yr old executive who requested to remain anonymous admitted
      sheepishly ; "The numbers (ministerial salaries) are a national embarrassment
      really, because it reflects the underlying materialistic value systems of
      Singapore Ministers. No matter how you look at it, the fact remains that our
      ministers are money faced, and these are supposed to be Singapore's leaders,
      with value systems that Singaporeans should follow." "It (the ministerial
      salaries) puts Singapore in a bad light in the eyes of the world. The rest of
      Singaporeans really put in an honest days work for every penny they earn. And
      the process for review and approval of the ministerial salaries is also a joke.
      Imagine sitting on the board and approving (on White Paper)your own salary
      increments! Its all a wayang show".

      This also raises the question as to the authenticity of the actual process for
      review and approval of cabinet minister's salaries. Who decides on these
      numbers? Is there independence and transparency?

      Veteran opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam on Wednesday, Nov 20, 2002 challenged
      Singapore government ministers to take a pay cut to show they understand the
      economic hardships faced by the public. And the over-riding concern is that
      Singapore's Ruling Elite are unable to appreciate the economic hardship that
      the masses face in these tough times.

      The growing public resentment comes afew months after PM Goh's careless
      comments that "lay-offs were not all bad", drew a backlash from the public with
      a flood of e-mails being sent to the foreign press to register public
      indignation.

      Source Sg_Review group

      Singapore Review welcomes honest feedback on this hotly debated topic. You can
      Send your comments to the editor: sg_Review@yahoogroups.com
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