'ESM' just a title, I am not paid ministerial salary: ESM Goh

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong has reiterated that he does not receive a ministerial salary.

"I shall use this opportunity to debunk public perception that I am paid a ministerial salary. ESM is merely a title with no pay," he wrote in a Facebook post yesterday, two days after government website Factually debunked online claims about ministerial pay.

The former prime minister said that since retiring from Cabinet in 2011, he continues to work for Singapore and use his stature to help raise awareness and funds for different groups of disadvantaged Singaporeans.

"Instead of threatening to get up from my grave when things go wrong, I prefer to contribute while still alive but without getting in the way of the younger leaders," he quipped, referencing a well-known quote by founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

"Moreover, I have no plans to do a Mahathir!" he added.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad made a comeback in May when he led the Pakatan Harapan coalition to victory at the general election.

Some people had asked him to do the same, ESM Goh had said at the annual Marine Parade National Day Dinner last month.

But Singapore does not need a former prime minister to come to its rescue, he had said then, citing how the country "has not done too badly" on international indices in terms of healthcare and housing, among others.

At a separate residents' forum last month, ESM Goh had commented on ministerial salaries. He said, in response to a question, that while giving more help to the elderly is not wrong, cutting ministers' pay to do so would make it harder to attract good people to join the Government in the future.

His remarks reignited the debate on ministerial salaries.


Elaborating later, ESM Goh said: "Salaries are not our starting point in looking for ministers. Character, motivation, commitment, selflessness, practical abilities, competence and proven performance are the main attributes we look for, he said.

On Sunday, the Factually website set out how ministerial salaries are calculated. It stated that a minister's annual salary is made up of a fixed component of a monthly pay and 13th month bonus, as well as a variable pay component.

The website also debunked a claim that the prime minister is being paid $2.2 million a year as a base salary, excluding bonuses, and that he earns a total of $4.5 million.

Stating that this is false, the website said the prime minister's norm salary is set at two times that of a new minister at entry MR4 grade.

His $2.2 million annual salary includes bonuses, but he does not receive a performance bonus, as there is no one to assess his performance annually. He, however, receives the national bonus.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2018, with the headline ''ESM' just a title, I am not paid ministerial salary: ESM Goh'. Print Edition | Subscribe