Photo of PAP MP Edwin Tong with Kong Hee

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong complained about his salaries saying that the S$1.1 million-a-year salaries is not enough and that the ruling party PAP will have problem attracting highly-paid professionals to join the PAP.

The former Prime Minister who now carries the Emeritus Senior Minister title without holding any portfolio was responding to a resident at a public forum why the Singapore government has no money to help the elderly poor. Minister Goh Chok Tong said lowly-paid individuals are “very very mediocre people”:

“The idea of helping the elderly more is not wrong. We must do something for the older ones. But we must not cut the ministers’ pay, because it is a populist move. If ministers are not paid well, very, very mediocre people will be ministers in the long run. Think about that. Is it good for you, or is it worse for us in the end?”

Minister Goh Chok Tong then raised the example of corrupted Minister Edwin Tong who drew undisclosed of lawyer’s fees in millions in the City Harvest Church’s lawsuit:

“MP Edwin Tong, a lawyer, took a 75 per cent pay cut when he became a senior minister of state on July 1. Mr Tong had previously earned more than $2 million a year as a senior counsel and now makes about $500,000… I tried but failed to persuade two from the private sector to stand in the 2015 general election. One earned $10 million and the other, $5 million, a year. Mr Tong, 48, who was a partner at leading law firm Allen and Gledhill, is an exception, because he wants to serve.”

Minister Goh Chok Tong then said when Edwin Tong was appointed Senior Minister, the latter went to him and complained that he has to support his family on a S$500,000/yr salaries compared to the S$2 million/yr he was drawing:

“He said, at this stage of his life, he has got a house, he has got a mother-in-law to support, a father-in-law to support, his own parents and so on, what should he do? So I asked him, ‘Edwin, what are you in politics for?’ He said, ‘Here to serve.’ So I said, ‘Well, you know between $2 million and perhaps half a million, later on you hopefully become a full minister, $1 million, you have to decide which is more important.’ He said, ‘Yes, I will take it on.’ And he felt very strongly that he could do the job.”

Minister Edwin Tong is however still working full-time as a lawyer and works in politics on a part-time basis.