SPH: Another home for ex-ministers?

In Media, Political governance on 07/10/2011 at 7:38 am

This article reminding us of all the ex-ministers who are now govmin advisers reminded me that SPH is another place where ex-ministers are given jobs.

Former Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Lee Boon Yang, will be SPH’s next non-executive chairman from December.  Ministers ending up as chairmen of SPH are nothing new. Think Tony Tan and Lim Kim San. 

Ex-president Nathan documented in his recently published memoirs that the post of SPH chairman is in the gift of the prime minister of S’pore. But SPH is a listed company and its editors and journalists keep saying it is independent of the government.

Other than Dr Lee, Zainul Abidin, a former junior minister, recently got a job with SPH radio.

What should be of concern to SPH shareholders is that Dr Lee and A Zainul were, it is alleged, unemployed when they joined SPH. Apparently, since Dr Lee retired as a minister two years ago, he has been done nothing. [Correction at 12.50 pm on 7 October 2011: He is chairman of TLC, Keppel Corp] No MNC or private sector job offers, it is rumoured

Ain’t that a big surprise? We had been told that S’pore had to pay millions in salaries yearly to ensure that ministers did not resign and seek jobs with private sector companies. As Dr Lee was the media minister, surely the likes of Rupert Murdoch, the Burmese junta, or the Chinese state media company would have beaten a path to his mansion gates, offering him a job?  Here was a man of proven talent in controlling the media.

Apparently not. So he ends up only as SPH chairman. 

Given A Zainul’s experience in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and as district mayor, I’m surprised no MNC snapped him him for his diplomatic and administrative skills before he joined SPH, though an Australian miner controlled by a S’porean has since appointed him deputy chairman. The miner has big plans in M’sia.

But this job raises the issue of what he is being paid to do in SPH? And is it a part-time job?

Two more candidates for jobs in SPH?

Mah Bow Tan and Raymond Lim are believed to be jobless. They are also ex-SPH employees, like A Zainul.

SPH shareholders should be concerned if more unemployed ex-ministers are eyeing jobs at SPH at a time when SPH faces challenges to its dominant position in the media space, what with the rise of new media, and increasing public unhappiness with its constructive, nation-building editotial policy. A policy which has been called “suck up to the government of the day” editorial policy.  When the British and M’sian governments ruled here, SPH publications supported their policies.

Update on 21 January 2012 at 5.20pm

Given my comments on the inability of ex-ministers to get big bucks private sectors jobs (here and here), I tot that I would have to sit down and shut up at the end of last year when I read that Georgie Boy was now “special adviser to the Kuok Group” and Lim Hwee Hua has a new job as senior advisor Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), a major US private equity firm.

Well Mrs Lim could be paid mega-bucks: if she performs. KKR says she is a proven leader in the worlds of government, finance and investment and said her expertise of Singapore and Southeast Asia will be particularly valuable to the firm. Mr Joseph Bae, who heads the firm’s Asian operations, added the company will rely on Mrs Lim for her insights for KKR’s portfolio companies in the region.

But as for George Yeo, he said it was “an informal arrangement” and that he would join the private sector in 2012, but could not provide details. He is now a vicechairman of  a Kuok Group company.

Reading between the lines of what he said and snooping around, I suspect that the title “special adviser” and “vice chairman” doesn’t imply that he is getting paid serious money. They are titles that shows that he has access to the decision makers in the Kuok Group.

Raymond Lim is a director of a Swire Pacific Group company here and has some kind of arrangement with a local fund manager. Mah is chairman of Global Yellow Pages Ltd, a local listco. Again, no mega bucks here. And Raymond Lim was from the private sector, for a while.

Wong Kan Seng, Lim Boon Heng and Mah must be enjoying their pensions given their many years of government service. Wonder if as big as this guy?

Francisco Luzon, who runs the Americas division of a Spanish bank, Santander, was retiring after 15 years as an executive director, with a pension of about 56 million euros, or roughly $72 million, the FT reported late last week.

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  1. They should have relinguish all their present positions and let other younger Singapore Citizen have an opportunity to prove themselves that they are equals if not better.
    With all the big fat pension packet, they do not need to work anymore, why would they want to deprive our Singaporean Citizen from having these positions.

  2. If you look at the C.V of the Ministers, all of their time was spend in public service, quickly elevated to being a director and then rotated amongst the agencies before being tapped by the PAP in their tea sessions. Once taken out of their self-created reality and put into the reality of the real world, they actually have no in-demand skill needed.

    Then the Old Man needs to continue to buy them off to stop them writing fascinating biographies that would have expose the upper echelons as nothing more than mere mortals.

    I find it all very amazing.

  3. [Quote]
    Lim Kim San once told a young banker during a moment of candour, “One thing about the PAP, they take care of their own. If not for them, I’ll be sleeping on the streets.”
    [End Quote] —

    Why do you think so many so-called professionals in civil service, banks, big law firms and big accounting firms join YPAP? The americans got it right in their observation of the empirical role of YPAP and the motivations of those joining.

  4. When Lee Boon Yang left cabinet he was shunted into the post of Chmn at Keppel Corp

  5. […] This is Singapore. There is no free Press – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: SPH: Another home for ex-ministers? […]

  6. Such is the reality of life in Singapore!

  7. Mah BT still in Tampines. His face is all over the banners put up during Hari Raya with the rest of the Tampines MP. No idea what is going on as though he is out for good. So he is drawing pension plus MP pay ? He is not a minister, but likely he is still a MP.

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