Speaking to his grassroots leaders at a closed-door dialogue, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong downplayed the worsening state of inequality in Singapore saying that inequality “exists everywhere” and even in North Korea:
“Inequality exists everywhere. In every society, there is a certain amount of inequality and there is no society where the top and the bottom are the same. Even when you go to North Korea, you can be sure that the Chairman is not the same as the labourer.”
The eldest son of Lee Kuan Yew who was made Prime Minister by his father said that inequality even existed among family siblings and defended his government’s inability to address inequality in Singapore:
“And if you look at your own children, you know, same parents, but the kids, brothers, sisters, they are not the same. Each one is different. Different temperaments, different characters, different abilities, and different life outcomes. In Singapore, inequality has always existed.”
The world’s richest politician on a S$2.2 million-a-year salary was responding to the independent international report by Oxfam, which ranked the Singapore government a lowly 149th out of 157 countries on efforts to reducing inequality. Singapore’s GINI coefficient is 0.458 as of 2017 – among the world’s most unequal societies.
Lee Hsien Loong then tried to argue his way out by pulling out his father’s era again, making drastic comparisons to 50 years ago:
“If you look back 50 years ago, a lot of people were poor and lived miserably, and still there were rich towkays and landlords. And there was a range from the rich to the poor. But we have worked hard to lessen this inequality, to raise the base level up, to make sure that Singapore becomes a fair and just society.”