SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore’s government ministers, already among the world’s highest paid, will see their annual salaries jump by about 60 percent to an average of S$1.9 million ($1.26 million), a minister told parliament on Monday.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will see his salary rise to S$3.1 million ($2.05 million) from an estimated S$2 million, which will be five times the $400,000 that U.S. president George Bush earns.
“For the public service to remain an attractive employer, our terms must keep pace with the private sector,” Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also minister in charge of the civil service, said in parliament.
The salary increase — which will take effect in two steps by the end of next year — is slightly smaller than the government had originally proposed.
Prime Minister Lee said last month the salaries of Singapore ministers and top civil servants might have to rise to as much as S$2.2 million (US$1.45 million) because they had fallen way below benchmark top salaries in the private sector.
The announcement sparked an outcry. Hundreds of Singaporeans signed an online petition and wrote to the state-controlled newspapers to protest against the move.
Some Singaporeans said the salaries do not reflect the country’s economy or the government’s performance, and that the government was tactless to raise ministers’ salaries now given Singapore’s widening income gap.
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.