Turning to corruption, PM Lee said he views anti-corruption not as a political issue, but as a key factor in economic development. “There are, of course, times when people flout the rules, or violate the law; we don’t care who it is, they will be punished by strict laws. Because if we protect the person, or cover up, or hush it, I think everyone will know sooner or later,” he said.
“The situation has changed, Singapore is different from before … When everyone comes to Singapore, they have to understand, you need to pay fees, and fees have receipts, they are accounted for. Other than that, it will be under-table for private transactions. I think this is our advantage in competition,” he added. He also tipped his hat to Chinese president Xi Jinping’s efforts to fight corruption in his own country.
He also spoke on the topic of high ministerial salaries, speaking in defence of the existing, but controversial, system of pay.
“In principle, it is not about a high salary, but rather a realistic and commensurate salary,” he said. “The most important jobs have to be done by the most capable and reliable people. And if you want capable and reliable people for these jobs, then you have to treat them equally and fairly.
People often say they should be motivated by a sacrificial spirit, a spirit of service. Since they are doing it for the country and for the people, they must be willing to put aside their personal benefit and forge ahead selflessly. This definitely holds true.
“But at the same time, these are peaceful times, not a revolutionary period, and everyone needs to support their families and plan for their future,” he continued. “Those people who are capable may choose not to make the sacrifice and hope someone else will do it. So in this context, we need a pragmatic system, a realistic wage … so it is not just a matter of salaries, but also a matter of the system, of transparency, and of our culture of governance.”