Don't underpay our ministers: Lee Kuan Yew

Singapore's former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew sent a letter to the media to give his views on the recommendations of the ministerial pay review committee.

In the letter, Mr Lee writes that Singapore cannot argue that ministers' sole reward should be their contribution to the public good:

'I listened to several of the speeches in Parliament on ministerial salaries and read the rest in the newspapers.  With a different generation, political attitudes change.

'But for Singapore, the basic challenge remains unchanged: That unless we have a steady stream of high-quality men and women to serve as PM and ministers, Singapore as a little red dot will become a little black spot.

'I was Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990 and Senior Minister in PM Goh Chok Tong's Cabinet from 1990 to 2004.

'To find able and committed men and women of integrity, willing to spend the prime of their lives, and going through the risky process of elections, we cannot underpay our ministers and argue that their sole reward should be their contribution to the public good.

'Every family wants to provide the best for their children, send them to a good university.  We were pragmatic and paid competitive salaries in order to have a continuous stream of high-calibre people become MPs, and then ministers.  They put their careers at risk and underwent an uncertain and unpredictable election process.

'A PM and his ministers carry heavy responsibilities for the nation.  If they make a serious mistake, the damage to Singapore will be incalculable and permanent.  Their macroeconomic policies will decide the GDP of the country, which was more than S$300 billion in 2010, with per capita GDP of S$59,000.

'We did not take Singapore from the Third to the First World by head-hunting ministers willing to sacrifice their children's future when undertaking a public service duty.

'We took a pragmatic course that did not require people of calibre to give up too much for the public good.  We must not reduce Singapore to another ordinary country in the Third World by dodging the issue of competitive ministerial remuneration.'

Mr Lee is currently in Paris to attend Total's advisory council meeting.