Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s uncharacteristic comments about flying economy class as a way of leading by example cannot be taken seriously. The only way for him and his senior ministers to gain greater respect would be to lower their own salaries to more acceptable standards.
A SOUTH Korean official got it all wrong when he called Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s decision to fly economy class “praiseworthy” and “pragmatic”.
The Chosun Ilbo, a leading South Korean newspaper, reported that when Finance Minister Yoon Jeung Hyun asked Mr Lee “why the leader of an affluent country (doesn’t) use a private or charter jet”, Mr Lee responded by saying that he did not think Singapore was an affluent country.
Mr Lee also reportedly said: “Besides, as a government official, I have to lead by example. Singapore’s senior officials fly economy class, not first class, for flights under six hours.”
The entire exchange, as well as the Chosun Ilbo’s coverage of it, was reported in the Straits Times. Both leaders spoke after attending the Asean-South Korea Commemorative Summit in South Korea.
When politicians start making statements that display a false sense of humility, one cannot help but question the premise of those statements as well as the issues that those statements obscure.
Mr Lee’s assertions of “leading by example” seem rather hypocritical, given the pay he receives as a minister.
Had Mr Lee’s statements come from a politician of any other developed country, they would probably not cause any stir. But Mr Lee is the highest paid politician in the world by a wide margin, and one cannot help but wonder at the purpose of this false sense of humility.
1) spineless humility on June 11th, 2009 12.15 pm “Besides, as a govt official, I have to lead by example.”
‘Lead by example” indeed ! absolutely laughable.
The highest paid political leader in the universe by an obscene margin,
who needs his father to hold his hands.
The only leader who allows the father and wife to run state funds with no accountability.
The only leader who not too long ago announced to the public he cannot handle more than 5 opp members in parliament, as he needs to think of ways to fix them. What a freaking laugh ! This probably explains why he needs 80+ stooges in parliament to provide some manner of confidence.
3) Hahaha on June 11th, 2009 12.36 pm Action speaks louder than words.
For not openly declaring his total pay-out (salary as PM, pension, bonus, etc), whatever this Lee says is just wayang. For not having an open independent review of the major investment losses by GIC (headed by his dad) and TH (headed by his wife), and then claiming that Singapore is not affluent, is he hinting or hiding something?
For the suffering Singaporeans, one way is to vote this Lee and his GRC out in the next election. It will then spell the end of an old man’s dynastic dreams and the ridiculous amount of public funds used to pay the numerous Ministers at PMO’s for holding this Lee’s hands.
4) A&E on June 11th, 2009 12.40 pm It wasn’t humility that he was trying to convey, but an impression of fiscal prudence and frugality. Unfortunately for PM Lee, his public utterances so often also convey (well, at least to me) a sense of insincerity: I don’t get the sense he means what he says, whatever he says.
The “affluent country” bit is really fresh. Is that an acknowledgment that he has taken Singapore from first world to third since taking over the helm? He should really work harder, then.
5) comeblowyourhorn on June 11th, 2009 12.53 pm Leaders who really work for the people do not talk about their sacrifices in
public. eg S korea’s Prez Lee Yong Bak or NY mayor’s Mike Bloomberg as they
work without any financial returns.
By bragging openly, LHL has just put his foot in his mouth because people know
the other side of the story ie his senior govt officials are given out of this world
salaries that could pay for their first class or private jet travels many times over.
6) gemami on June 11th, 2009 12.53 pm If PM Lee is truly humble the thing he ought to do now is to set up a forum to discuss the ministerial salaries and resolve the issue once and for all. The obsene salary issue is not one that is confined to cyberspace only. The MSM have, once in a while, hinted that it is an issue Singaporeans are most unhappy about.
All these have been met with complete silence with the exception of MM Lee dishing out his threat once in a blue moon about peanuts attracting monkeys, forgeting that the biggest monkey in Singapore happens to be his very own daughther-in-law, the wife of our economy-class flying PM.
7) notalone on June 11th, 2009 12.57 pm I followed the leaders’ example to invest my personal monies into US Banks in 2007 and 2008.
I suffered heavy losses (realized not paper), what about them?
8) Jimmy on June 11th, 2009 1.30 pm I prefer my leaders to fly biz class for short flights at least, and first class for longer. They should be on top of their game whether visiting or coming back to Singapore. I dont want my dear PM to be hit on the head by a tray or get DVT or H1N1. BTW, the size of the entourage should also be considered.
9) aiyoyo on June 11th, 2009 1.31 pm aiyoyo
why elites like that huh?
not sure how commoners going to do next time?
(so many elites; not sure if anything good done to help man on the street?)
10) SingaporeanGood on June 11th, 2009 1.38 pm anybody can confirm what LHL said is true?
11) shameless on June 11th, 2009 2.12 pm I fully agreed with 3)… vote out LHL at the next election will put an end to all these rubbish. But residents there may be clouded by propaganda, so it is very important to put an strong opposition team there.
12) Peter Sellers on June 11th, 2009 2.19 pm The only issue I have with this article is the comment against the picture. The word “some” should read “many” or “most”.
13) small engineer on June 11th, 2009 2.31 pm How many out there agree even if elder famiLEE did not ever bring his obscenely greedy generation into S’pore, our families & fellow citizens will still be living comfortable, safe & secure lives in Singapore.
What they have done most blatantly is creating a social divide where on the one extreme we have people struggling to provide a decent life for their families and on the other, ‘out of the moon’ people with ridiculuosly obscene high salaries, whose amounts can feed ordinary families for generations.
14) Bernard on June 11th, 2009 3.03 pm MM and PM Lee fly economy class for flights below 6 hours? Sure or not? Since when did any of us commoners see the MM or PM sitting beside us in economy class?
Security concerns alone would dictate that top Singaporean officials will not mingle with the masses in economy class. If there is any truth in what PM Lee said, it is most likely that they book the entire section of the plane for themselves.
15) melwanni on June 11th, 2009 3.10 pm “The only leader who not too long ago announced to the public he cannot handle more than 5 opp members in parliament, as he needs to think of ways to fix them.”
Correction, first thing he needs to do is to “fix” his old man and his hopeless wife for causing so so much loss to the nation. Then he can get out of my “elitist” non-caring face.
16) jim007jimmyboy on June 11th, 2009 3.19 pm when i read the news i was hahahaha….
guess nobody will be con by them any more.
Esp when trash is from 154
17) der on June 11th, 2009 3.36 pm If SG’s Ministers fly economy class for flights less than 6 hours, how come we’ve never heard of anyone spotting them on flights? I would think people will talk excitedly about such sightings, but so far there has been none. So does that mean our ministers hardly go out, and thus are hardly sighted?
18) collins on June 11th, 2009 3.40 pm What a hypocrite ! The multi BILLIONS that he and his famiLEE lost is more than enough to buy an entourage of space shuttles to fetch his famiLEE of supreme immortals to anywhere in the world and possibly to the nether world too.
19) Rurehe on June 11th, 2009 3.44 pm Must find witnesses who had seen him in economy class flights in planes.
The airline people can help. For example, stewardesses, pilots, check-in clerks etc.
If there is no witness then he might just telling a tall story to a foreign journalist.
20) mike on June 11th, 2009 3.47 pm i think what he meant was he and the rest took economy class but chartered the whole plan, get it?
21) Gilbert Goh on June 11th, 2009 3.51 pm This smelled of the time during the NKF crisis when first class and business class travelling were all the talk of the town.
we all knew the true story later.
Maybe someone from inside can tell us the truth.
Until now, we have to stay by LHL version of economy class travelling for civil servants.
I knew some of my colleagues working in civil service flown economy class to Europe to attend some courses there many years ago. Again, they are not top notch civil servants.
22) IMS on June 11th, 2009 3.56 pm after next election, ministers’ pay will be reviewed and pegged to private sector ie. Capital Land CEO $30M. believe me, this will come. he he he
23) Rurehe on June 11th, 2009 3.59 pm So, the PM believes in leading by example.
Will he lead his troops into battle. I mean at the front. A fixed bayonet charge.
Well, Alexander the Great did. Not once or twice but many times. He had many wounds.
The Israeli army officers still do and they have been doing that for hang of a long time. Even before the foundation of the present state of Israel.
Ask Moshe Dayan and even the present PM of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. And many others. Lest I forget, the Beast, Ariel Sharon.
The US generals did not do so. They were showmen. An example is General MacArthur. He would gather the newsmen around and then he would wade ashore after stepping off the landing craft to step on the shores of the Philippines to show that he lived by his pledge, ‘”I shall return.”
Will LHL our Commander-in-Chief, lead by example when Singapore has to fight off an invading enemy? Will the SAF officers do the same and follow the example of their Commander?
24) Alex the peasant boy on June 11th, 2009 4.10 pm Another own goal by our dear PM! Sigh….when will he ever learn from previous Boo-Boos. First, it was the Mee-Siam dont want Hum & now, he’s saying that his team flies E Class? t’s really amzaing that none of them were ever spotted by the peasants fighting to eat with the plastic spoon while seated next to some King Kong Bundy of a guy in E Class!
PM Lee, sir, I am really sorry that your officials are flying E Class & I am also sorry that I have never seen any of the officials or Ministers in that class with me. But then, I guess there are so many of these helpers running around, I wont be able to recognise them at all!! In fact, I dont even know who my MP is!! Another amazingly Singapore!
25) Daniel on June 11th, 2009 4.10 pm “Will LHL our Commander-in-Chief, lead by example when Singapore has to fight off an invading enemy? Will the SAF officers do the same and follow the example of their Commander?”
Please lah, clown prince disappears when those saga of Mas Selamat, financial crisis, minibomb, temasek corpse, and many serious stuffs happen and that is not even threatening his life to address the issues, what make make you think he and his family will even fight the enemy as far as their life is concerned. To them , we are just digit to make money and to make sacrifice for them. These clowns sit in Ivory Tower in good times and bad times, and no doubt when war comes, they just likely to sit in Ivory Tower abeit in other countries, giving rhetoric and speech of “more good years” and “golden period”.
26) mike on June 11th, 2009 4.15 pm 23) Rurehe on June 11th, 2009 3.59 pm ,
he may leads his famiLee to elsewhere instead of our army then.
27) gemami on June 11th, 2009 4.16 pm No need for war to see them go running. Every year, from June to August, you get to see the ministers going abroad for this or that - to run away from the climate heat in Singapore. You think they will stick around if there is a war outbreak?
28) ABC on June 11th, 2009 4.18 pm Why not send all these comments to Finance Minister Yoon Jeung Hyun to digest and uncover the PM’s mask.
29) BayesianThinker on June 11th, 2009 4.28 pm I think it is too easy to laugh or feel outraged by PM’s statements.
For the fun of it, let me try to see whether it is possible to try to defend him in a most dispassionate or impartial way:
(1) Is it praiseworthy for a leader of a country to fly by commercial plane instead of a private jet?
Obviously, yes. It saves public money. The leader has indeed shown a good example by putting up with a little discomfort for the sake of not being wasteful.
(2) When a foreign dignitary implied that your country is rich, should you deny that you are rich out of humility or should you agree haughtily?
Obviously, a socially-intelligent leader will show humility.
(3) Does receiving a multi-million salary disqualify a leader from behaving in a humble way?
PM receives such a high pay as a result of a decision by the Parliament. In fact, it is because of his high pay that he has to act more humbly.
(4) Are all humble acts by rich people necessarily hypocritical or false?
Obviously, not. I personally know of many multi-millionaires who only eats food at the food courts. Warren Buffet is another example. As far as I know, PM does not drive a Muceilago or a Scaglietti although I’m sure he can afford both.
(5) Is the people’s respect for a leader inversely proportional to his salary?
Respect for a leader has nothing to do with his salary. Respect will be earned if the people know that the leader is competent, sincere and works only for the welfare of the people and the country.
(6) Should a political leader of a small country be paid so highly?
This is the most difficult one to answer. How high is too high? Ultimately, it is the Parliament that decides.
30) Retiree on June 11th, 2009 4.53 pm Spore Ministers or top civil servants flying economy class ?. My foot. Even on their private holidays these people can well afford to fly First or Business class. Fly economy class for our ministers and other top elites? It will never happen. Business class is possible as some commercial flights have only Business and Economy Class cabin.
31) Eureka on June 11th, 2009 5.31 pm I don’t believe Ass Loong will flying economy class plane seats with the patient. With the spiraling of cases of H1N1, he wont want to sit with those potential infected people. For a PM who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth its highly and earn $3 million a year, he is unlikely to sacrifice his comfort and health to travel in econmony class seats.
32) bullstory on June 11th, 2009 5.52 pm Wow…the bull’s output is such a huge pile. SG MPs are arrogant and ’save face’, do you think they will actually fly economy class??? If only someone can unearth the spending scandal in SG govt (like the recent case uncovered in UK) that would be a great deed done to SG citizens. PM Lee can only be PM because of LKY, count himself lucky.
33) blackfeline on June 11th, 2009 6.01 pm let’s call a spade a spade…he’s lying. Period.
34) Kim San on June 11th, 2009 6.11 pm The headline really should have been “PM Lee gives false impression of humility”.
35) John Tan on June 11th, 2009 6.20 pm I once flew with a very senior politician and both of us sat in the front row of economy class to Bangkok. No special treatment except air stewardess greeting him more frequently. I think a distinction needs to be made between spending your own salary and using public finances. What ministers or senior officials do during their vacation or leisure is their own business as long as they don’t claim allowances like how UK MPs do. I’m not trying to justify ministerial salaries here but just want to note the point on air travel.
36) whjho on June 11th, 2009 6.29 pm Can the AG-annual audit verify such statement against expenses?
GO through all the travel expenses esp air ticket bookings. Note any deviation and un-discrepant acts.
I am sure the truth will be found. And the truth shall set us free from such guessing, fingerpointing and embarrassment.
37) blackfeline on June 11th, 2009 6.34 pm last year..a group comprising minsters and government officials were on the same flight (SQ) to Dubai. Prior to the actual trip from Changi Airport:
We were contacted one day in advance to arrive at check in 2 hours earlier than the recommended (at least 2 hrs) for a thorough “pasar malam” inspection of all luggages. A 2nd round for hand carried items was conducted at the waiting area. Throughout the entire 7 hrs trip…they occupied the first/business class…nobody was allowed to see them face to face. All was shrouded in mystery right up to arrival…they were treated like royalties! Humility…my foot!
38) Enigmatic on June 11th, 2009 6.37 pm For one who conspicuously absent when needs c all for and who does not smoke - ironically smoked very well indeed to pervades the distant : Korea with the puff to choke us here - we really ta boleh tahan liao…..
39) majullah singapura on June 11th, 2009 6.39 pm Maybe the south korean was being sarcastic when he asked the question…
40) Vegetable takes tablet 1 erected on standby on June 11th, 2009 7.51 pm Is it true that LKY only take economy class to say KL or Thailand or any country within the 6 hour hinterland? I mean , based on that person say that “Singapore’s senior officials fly economy class, not first class, for flights under six hours”?
Could someone comfom comfom?
41) Overseas Singaporean on June 11th, 2009 8.03 pm PM Lee said senior officials. I don’t think he was referring to cabinet members but specifically civil service senior officials?
42) David on June 11th, 2009 8.04 pm It is pretty amazing that he could lie thru his teeth without choking. Yet we have Straits Times sugar-coated such lies and deliver to our consumption, presumably election is coming. I hope Singaporeans can boycott ST (thru cancellation of subscription) during election times.
43) Tim on June 11th, 2009 8.11 pm A note to the Prime Minister: you may or may not seat SIA planes for your foreign trips, but that doesn’t mean you can earn $2 to $3m being the PM of Singapore. Compare that with US President Obama and Aussie PM Kevin Rudd, whom both are in charge of a superpower that has 400m people, and 21m people respectively, and who has more responsibilities as a leader.
If PM Rudd can earn only A$200,000 to $300,000 as the Australian Prime Minister, while President Obama takes in US$400,000- and both were millionaires, and still are- when they came into office, it goes to show that whether one’s rich or poor, serving the country is more than just earning big bucks.
So why is the PM earning 7-8 times more than the top leaders in far larger countries and who has more responsibilities?
You can earn big bucks even before you join the public service- and once you’re a public servant, and the leader of the country, you have to accept its a form of public service to the country and your people. And that calls for sacrifice on your part. It should not be just about the money that leads people to serve their country as public services.
44) E2i visitor on June 11th, 2009 8.19 pm I just want to let mr Leong know, it is true that even singaporean NITEC holders are offered $900 a month salary. Just ask those who been there. So, I am really impressed by your findings as well.
45) tick on June 11th, 2009 8.34 pm I think some senior minister sit in a Lexus correct? if the same theory applies, why dont they just drive a Toyota??
46) David on June 11th, 2009 9.24 pm Can Lee Hsien Loong show his humility to Taiwanese too? Will they buy his words? here is their answers to LHL:-
47) Daniel on June 11th, 2009 9.33 pm “It is pretty amazing that he could lie thru his teeth without choking. Yet we have Straits Times sugar-coated such lies and deliver to our consumption, presumably election is coming. I hope Singaporeans can boycott ST (thru cancellation of subscription) during election times.”
What can be worse than using citizen’s money to fund their instrument of lies.
Remind me of the Japanese gahmen who force wealthy Chinese to donate large sum of money to fund Japanese war and yet sarcastically praise these Chinese for been so understanding and loyal.
48) Amazed on June 11th, 2009 9.40 pm Lead by example? Yeah, then draw a more acceptable salary. Salary should never be higher than the US President cos how can Singapore be compared to the superpower? All our highly-paid government ministers have even to kow-tow to the US, so how can you earn more than them?
We would rather you fly first-class or biz-class as our leaders and lower your obscene salary to more manageable levels. We would be less embarrassed that way. But alas, their salaries is a taboo subject, no-go, OB markers and non-negotiable item.
I have a feeling the presidents and prime ministers of US, UK, Australia, Japan, France, Germany, China are all corrupted and dishonest since they are all drawing salaries way below our demi-gods. This has to be so going by the logic propounded by our government that they have to paid highly to minimise dishonesty and corruption. A bunch of congenital liars, period!
49) rwkc on June 11th, 2009 10.09 pm If some [interpret as at least one] PAP members several notches lower in rank to the PM, MM, SM and deputy PMs have been found to be earning $6-8 million pa in govt linked companies, can it be possible for the PM, MM and other senior ministers to be earning less, in the region of $1-3 million pa? Maybe I am wrong, as someone in a previous post advanced the argument that comparing incomes in this way is not comparing like with like. The previous chairman of Keppel Corp was earning about $8 million pa for the few years before his retirement. This person was a PAP member attached previously to NTUC. Maybe someone can tell me this was just an exception. But I cannot rule out there are far more exceptions than this.
Since GCT’s wife viewed a yearly income of $600,000 pa as mere peanuts, an income of $1.5 million might just seem as peanuts-plus to her. Presumably she had info or knowledge of people earning by the millions, rather than a million or two.
This idea may not be far-fetched: that govt ministers and other PAP elites can probably afford to buy an apartment in each of the 3-5 major cities in the world, after being in service for just a dozen years, or even for a shorter period.
Can these people be expected to stay and die fighting for Singapore, if or when the going gets rough? Answer: doubtful.
50) Daniel on June 11th, 2009 10.15 pm Talking about salary, Are these clowns only earn in region of millions from their gahmen title ? How about their appointment in GIC, Temasek, GLC ? They say that there is no free lunch, so are their appointment FOC ?
51) prettyplace on June 11th, 2009 11.07 pm #12 Peter Selers…i thought you can only act funny, but commemt was too…
Good question TOC , on when was the rules, changed….
if Singaporeans are laughing, i wonder what people from other countries will be doing….laughing even louder… I guess.
52) tiredsingaporean on June 11th, 2009 11.20 pm 49) Daniel on June 11th, 2009 10.15 pm
Talking about salary, Are these clowns only earn in region of millions from their gahmen title ? How about their appointment in GIC, Temasek, GLC ? They say that there is no free lunch, so are their appointment FOC ?
If they were to disclose all their total combined salary + all the additional appointments hold in the various sectors within the TH & GIC, I believe this can cause a real riot outbreak in Singapore history. Thats why everything within TH & GIC are still being kept very tightly away from anyone except for a handful of family members and close associates today.
53) tiredsingaporean on June 11th, 2009 11.34 pm and may even cause an outbreak of the military, just imagine how those citizens who are made mandatory to risk their lives serving the 2.1/2 years NS at a misearable monthly salary which is worse than those foreign banglah workers while they keep helping and self rewarding themselves with millions and millions of the taxpayers money into their own bank a/c. Just use your head and think why that Teo chap who is so well respected and liked by the military was suddenly promoted to deputy PM and transfer to the PM office?
54) Retiree on June 11th, 2009 11.43 pm Hello Daniel #49 - For your info, all board of directors are paid handsome director’s fees. There is no such thing as FOC appointment. Money is the key. If you take a look at the board members of TH & GIC link companies, you will see that many top brass in the civil service and also from the armed forces are board members of these companies. This is how the elites reward their own members. So nothing is for free. No money no talk.
55) mice is nice on June 11th, 2009 11.56 pm hmmm…. military men taking on top govt positions in the country? sounds like some communist regime. hmmm….
no wonder the affinity with China, & now Myanmar?
57) Daniel on June 12th, 2009 12.45 am Wow in this case … our politicians cum businessmen not only the highest paid in the world for top positions, they win it by a mile ! Part-time job for minister and gahmen already get millions, and full job isn’t more handsomely paid especially with government relationship to do business. Where in the world people do half-fart job and still get millions ? Only in Uniquely Singapore.