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Member of Parliament Lim Wee Kiak of the Nee Soon group representation constituency has apologised for his remarks linking ministerial pay with the "dignity" of politicians.
In a note on his Facebook page on Friday, MP Lim said he would like to clarify the comments he made to Lianhe Zaobao and reproduced in LianheWanBao. The comments had been quickly slammed by netizens.
He had been quoted by the Chinese paper last week as saying, "If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communication and Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discuss policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister's ideas and proposals. Hence, a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity."
In his Facebook note, the MP said, "I withdraw those remarks and apologise for making them. Dignity cannot be and must not be measured purely in monetary terms."
He said he agreed that the example he gave and his comment that there may be loss of face if the minister's salary is low "is inappropriate and incorrect".
Noting that ministerial pay is a sensitive issue and one that many are concerned about, he said he would like to clarify his comments by making three fundamental points. We have re-posted them below in full:
1. We need a balanced approach to the question of Ministerial pay.
2. Personally, I think we should not use pay and perks to attract capable people to come forward to serve. I agree with PM that there is a service to country element and an element of sacrifice expected for the Ministers by the public.
3. On the other hand, we need to take into consideration their responsibilities and job scope when we remunerate Ministers.
The multi-million dollar pay of ministers was a hot-button issue in Singapore's recent General Election, which saw the ruling People's Action Party win 81 out of 87 seats but at a significantly lower share of the total votes.
Following the results, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the formation of a committee to review the "basis and level of political salaries". Any pay changes would take effect from 21 May this year.
In reaction to MP Lim's earlier remarks on ministerial pay, Francis Oen posted on Facebook: "Hi Wee Kiat.. Suggest you clarify your statement. Does it mean that only $ talks?! ... And if someone earns less, does it mean he cannot have dignity?"
Winnie Lim tweeted: "So according to Dr Lim Wee Kiak's theory, our ministers will ignore Obama because he earns less than all of them."
On his Facebook page, Dr Lim earlier said that his quote was taken out of context.
"Minister's pay issue is a sensitive one. There must be a balance. After all, capable individuals who are willing to come forward to serve should not so because of pay and perks," he replied to a user's question about his quote.
He added, "On the other hand, they do have families and dependents and need to consider for retirement, etc."