Singapore PM says Obama earns less but has perks

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Tuesday he may earn more than the US president but Barack Obama has much better perks such as free travel on Air Force One and holidays in Camp David.

Mounting a vigorous defence of the high salaries of Singapore ministers, Lee said the city-state cannot emulate the lower pay structures of bigger countries like the United States or Britain.

Lee's ruling People's Action Party has been on the defensive since general elections in May last year during which the government was heavily criticised over the million-dollar salaries of top officials.

Lee, 59, promised promised a review of the salary structure to ease public anger and an officially-sanctioned committee recommended steep pay cuts of at least a third.

But Singapore ministers remain among the highest paid in the world.

Lee earns Sg$2.2 million ($1.69 million) a year despite a 36 percent pay reduction under the revised pay scale, or more than four times as much as Obama, who earns $400,000.

"The (US) president is paid less than me, yes," Lee said during a debate in parliament Tuesday.

"But the high level residents in the White House travel in Air Force One, live in the White House and vacation in Camp David," he said.

Air Force One is the US presidential plane and Camp David is the country retreat.

Lee also said that US presidents earn millions of dollars after they retire.

"All they have to do is to turn up for an appearance, make a few remarks (and they receive) a hundred thousand dollars a time," said Lee.

Former US president George W. Bush had earned $15 million since retiring in 2009, while Bill Clinton has earned nearly $75 million over the past decade, he said.

Responding to criticism from citizens over the high salaries, Lee said the government needed to pay a premium to attract and retain capable officials.

The government has said giving ministers top salaries is a deterrent to corruption, which is prevalent in many Asian countries where many officials live lifestyles not commensurate with their lower pay.

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