The Reality Of Singapore Wage Reform
- Forum: the Sammyboy's Alfresco Coffee Shop Forum
Subject: The Reality Of Singapore Wage Reform
From: Disgruntled S'porean
The local papers have been giving full coverage to the economic recovery touting that there are more jobs created and that the government is "advocating" wage increments.
Looking beyond the glorified pages of the Straits Times, one really wonders how much of this is fact and how much of it is propaganda or wishful thinking.
You do not have to be Einstein or a rocket scientist to spot the very glaring irregularities:
1) The first tell tale sign that all is not as it seems is the muted report that unemployment rate is still on the rise.
The local press have tried to window dress this reality by diplomatically stating that "Singapore's unemployment rate was steady at 4.5 percent in March but more hirings were recorded"
How does one reconcile a 4.5% unemployment rate (which is still worsening) to government claims of a recovering economy? If more jobs are created why is there increasing or "steady" unemployment when we should see reducing unemplyment rate?
2) Then there are also the very "soft" ambigous measures that the government has "implemented" for wage increments which are not proportional to the very harsh medicine that was cavalierly dished out when things were less then rosy. Vague references to "wage hikes" will not translate to any real wage increments and are mere lip service.
Compare these to the very drastic across the board unilateral CPF cuts that were shoved down the throats of all workers barely 1-2 years ago. If indeed there is a real recovery, the first move by the government would be to restore the long overdue CPF rates. Why is there no move by the government to implement the long over due CPF restorations? Instead, the government's first move seems to be to retore ministerial salaries.
3) And of cause we have the lip service played by NTUC chief who in reality is placing road blocks on wage restorrations for workers. But hang on a sec here, this guy is suppossed to be looking after the workers? Perhaps he's just looking after his own pockets.
4) Whats make this unfair and unjust situation even more glaring is the fact that the government is set to announce a "restoration" of ministerial salaries!!! What gives? Where is the logic??? The common folks take an across the board CPF cut which is yet to be restored, whilst million dollar ministars (who have had no hand in this external trade driven recovery) are claiming wage increments on already rediculous ministerial salaries.
Forgive some of us for being paranoid but this seems to be one big bogus exercise co-ordinated by the government owned press to justify pay hikes on already indecent ministerial salaries.
5) It does not add to the government's fast waning credibility when the foreign and independent press have also reported very questionable and irregular amendments to the Constitution which basically allows the government a free hand into the country's reserves and public funds, which can now be siphoned directly into GLCs (Government Linked Companies) and Statutory Boards.
Where are the controls? where is the accountability? where are the checks and balances? Where are the separation of functions for essential branches/offices of state administration required by the IMF?
6) All the above appears to affirm the observations of Dan Fineman in the 6 May 2004 issue of the Far Eastern Economic Review, that "Huge hidden fiscal surpluses enrich the Singapore state but impoverish the private sector"
Some thing reeks in the senior ranks of government bureucracy and one would have expected Singapore "Leaders" to conduct themselves in a more dignified and appropriate manner. Far from leading by example, these so called leaders have alot to learn from the general public and its time they got of their thrones and plant their feet on terra firma.
Forum: the Sammyboy's Alfresco Coffee Shop Forum
Subject: National Wage Council
DateTime: 22/05/2004 14:46:50
Can somebody explain to me what is the purpose of this council.
They seem to convene periodically, definitely at least annually, and make extremely general statements about what wage increases or decreases should be. In my opinion, they add absolutely no value to the process.
For unionised workers, they have the unions to negotiate wages for them. The union leaders will try to push for better terms, the employers will try and resist and negotiate. This is part of the infamous "tripartite" arrangement, used to describe the relationship among government, employers and workers. Whether this process works or is fair in Singapore is another issue. The point is that the National Wages Council (NWC) plays no part in this.
For executive workers, their terms of employment is a negotiation process between them and their employers. If they are not happy, they can resign and move to another company. The risk for the employer is that they may not be able to hire a person of equivalent ability at the same or lower cost. Again, the recommendations of the NWC appears to be redundant.
Why then does the NWC exist?
From: laksa_boy 10:07
To: Atoms7 Poll 2 of 3
I have said time and time again: It's a JOBLESS RECOVERY, just like in America. A JOBLESS RECOVERY IS WORSE THAN NO RECOVERY AT ALL. ALSO, A JOBLESS RECOVERY IS IN ITSELF A FALSE STATEMENT, BECAUSE THERE CAN BE NO REAL RECOVERY WITHOUT JOBS.
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Date: Tue May 18, 2004 9:01 pm
Subject: SPH/Straits Times Paving The Way For Ministers Pay Hike Jun 2004
It is less than a month before the expected announcement of pay reinstatement
of minsterial pay, and the local government owned media is already softening up
Indeed the head lines are blaring:
Govt accepts wage guidelines
NWC calls for moderate wage increases
Pay rises of up to 4% likely, say employers
Build safety nets while economy is picking up: unions
Paving the way for another wave of ministerial pay increases.
Many however have not been able to see any tangible benefits from the economy
recovery that has been much touted by the government and the local papers.
Unemployment is still at an all time high.
Paying Mere Lip Service: Talk is Cheap.
It is also noteworthy that whilst the government has no qualms about imposing a
specific figure for an across the board CPF cut, a similiar resolute gesture is
lacking when advocating wage increases in a supposed recovery. The likely
result is that few Singaporans will see the actual benefits of a wage
We circulate below an old article which has continued relevance today.
According to the National Wages Council recommendations, the
ministers' pay-cut of 10% is only for one year, starting from July 2003.
Amidst the doom and gloom, with increasing costs of living, reduced
CPF rates and increasing GST rates, many Singaporeans are still taking home
much less then 10% of the average pay packet of a Singapore Minister.
Lets not even talk about whether its the right time and place to
restore severely inflated ministerial salaries. One really wonders if there
really was a substantive pay-cut in the first place.
We re-circulate below an old Singapore Review article for your reading pleasure
as well as recent comments from internet forumers on latest issue.
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
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
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
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
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
salary of 80% of Singapore's income earning population. Lets not even
begin to compare annual packages which will exceed SGD1 million
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
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
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: mellaniehewlitt@y...
26 July 2003
As I read Mr Tan Tarn How's article this morning in the 26 July 2003 issue of
the Straits Times (attached at bottom), several thoughts flashed through my
Until recently, the need for a strong labour union has been taken very much for
granted. But with growing retrenchments and unsympathetic policy makers, the
need for a bona fide union who will stand shoulder to shoulder with the worker
is absolutely necessary.
In Singapore, the lack of bona fide union representation is all the more
glaring given that this is not a welfare state and the state does not provide
any relief for the unemployed. The government's clear message to the retrenched
worker is not to look for free "hand-outs" (quoting the words of Straits Times
writer Ms Chua Lee Hoong).
Does asking for a descent job qualify as a "hand-out". I think that the average
Singaporean only wishes to be given the opportunity to earn his keep, and it is
not his fault that he has fallen victim to an imperfect system. (Pls see
previous article "Job Market Imperfections? Live With It!!! in previous issue
of Singapore Review, attached below)
And adding insult to injury, not only do policy makers remain unsympathetic to
displaced workers, unemployed workers are also denied of their hard
earned CPF salaries. If this is not the time to dip into hard earned savings,
It is understandable that many workers are bitter and feel that Unions here are
government affiliated and will only make a 1/2 hearted attempt to fight for
workers rights. Most often the measures are limited to retraining and job
sourcing unlike real Labour Unions in France and South Korea who have little
fear in going toe to toe with ministers and government on serious bread and
butter issues concerning employment and wage reforms.
But what do you expect when the unions in Singapore are largely runned and
managed directly or indirectly by officials who retain strong ties with the
government (and ultimately employers).
In Singapore, so called "Labour Unions" like NTUC are seen as tools for the
government to implement unpopular wage reforms. The relationship is a symbiotic
one and therein lies the problem. There will come a time when the needs of the
workers are at odds with government wage reforms and this is precisely the time
when real labour unions come into play.
It is no strange coincidence that the NTUC chief has always been a PAP member
and a member of cabinet. The dilemma that poses then is what happens if there
is a conflict of interest between workers and cabinet/policy makers?
Unfortunately, public consensus here confirm that when push comes to shove,
these pro-government unions will not be there in the darkest hour of need.
In short the pathetic state of labour union representation in Singapore is much
like that of opposition politics. Whatever protests and representations allowed
via official channels are merely cosmetic in nature, more so to show case to
the world that individual rights are represented in form and on paper. When the
question is asked, the government can proudly respond and answer, "Yes, we have
a labour union in existence here to represent workers rights and workers do
have a channel to make themselves heard."
And it is conceded that this is the truth on paper at least.
But peering beyond the veil, the real scene that greets the eyes is far from
encouraging. It is an ominous reminder that here in totalitarian Singapore, the
Government controls everything, and we mean everything literally.
In these difficult times, where there is a growing divide between the interests
of workers and the interests of the Ruling Elite. The absence of real, tangible
dissent in opposition politics and labour representation is both conspicuous
Events in recent weeks have emphasized the growing discord between the
interest of the masses and those of the Ruling Elite. Singapore Review has been
flooded by passionate letters endorsing release of CPF funds during these
difficult times. Other issues which have attracted passionate response concern
the NEL Fiasco (and repeated calls to open Baugkok station) as well as looming
unanswered questions concerning ministerial salaries.
Cruel Irony Defined: A PAP Minister who takes home SGD100,000-SGD175,000 PER
MONTH in tax dollars telling a worker (who earns SGD2,000 a month) to be "less
choosy" and to work harder.
And unfortunately for the average Singaporean, the above scenario has been
replayed over and over again like some defective recorder. After awhile, even a
once intelligent mind becomes numb and accepts fiction over fact and form over
This ridiculous situation exists only in Singapore as there is no real barrier
(whether in the form of real Labour Union representation, or Opposition
Representation) standing between PAP ministers and average individuals.
Is this a political system that is FOR THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE AND OF THE
PEOPLE? One really wonders.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CONSTITUTION?
The merits of a One Party, One Government, and totalitarian dictatorship have
long been questioned. The word of Kennedy strike home "POWER CORRUPTS AND
ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY". The spirit of these words govern the
Doctrine of Separation of Powers in a written constitution. One wonders in
Singapore whether the constitution exists only in form and not in substance. As
is often the case in Singapore, the spirit and original objective is often lost
in a model system that looks good only on paper.