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Netizens have pointed out that Singapore President Halimah Yacob earns about 48 times the salary of a chef at the Istana, compared to the earnings of the US President who would earn just six times that of a chef at the White House.

Intrigue into the salaries of the staff at the official residence and office of the Singapore President mounted after the Istana posted job listings for the positions of chef and butler. One job listing, for “Assistant Senior Butlers/Butlers,” advertises a gross monthly salary range of S$1,400 to S$2,000.

The job, which is open to Singapore citizens only, expects candidates to “provide hospitality service, and food & beverage service to guests at the Istana as well as to perform housekeeping duties which include set-up for events and ceremonial props/table setting for functions, and helping out in the Istana kitchen, linen room, floral arrangement room.”

After the employee’s Central Provident Fund deduction of 20 per cent of their take-home salary, the Istana’s Assistant Senior Butler or Butler would only bring S$1,120 to S$1,600 back home.

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The Istana advertised another job listing, looking for a chef to join their staff. The prospective employee must be a Singapore citizen with at least two years working experience in a similar position.

The prospective employee is expected to plan daily menus, purchase ingredients and prepare Western and local cuisines for various events on top of handling administrative work such as preparing claims for purchases and costing for menus and ensuring that the Food and Beverage operations at the Istana are run efficiently.

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The Istana advertises a gross monthly salary range of S$2,000 to S$2,500. After the employee’s Central Provident Fund deduction of 20 per cent of their take-home salary, the Istana’s Chef would only bring S$1,600 to S$2,000 back home.

Some have pointed out that the salaries the Istana offers for Assistant Senior Butlers, Butlers and Chefs appear to be low in comparison to industry standards.

According to the median gross wage statistics by the Ministry of Manpower in 2018, the median gross income of waiters is S$1,838 and the median gross income of captain waiters/waiter supervisors is S$2,700. The median gross salary for a middle-aged professional chef is S$3,532, which translates to a take-home pay of S$2,826.

Others have also highlighted that the salary the Singapore President earns is far more than her staff would earn.

In 2011, the Government decided to pay the President S$110,000 a month for his or her service. In March 2018, then-Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said that there has been a nine per cent increase in the benchmark salary from 2011 to date, which means the President earned a monthly gross salary of S$119,900‬ in 2018.

This means that President Halimah earned an annual salary of S$1,738,550 in 2019, given her monthly salary for twelve months, the 13th month bonus and the Annual Variable Component.

The Presidential expenditure estimate for the financial year of 2018 shows that there are a total of 26 full-time butlers and four chefs employed at the Istana. Ten of these butlers were hired in 2018.

If one assumes that all the butlers and chefs are paid the highest salary in the gross monthly salary range advertised in the recent job listings, the total monthly gross wage for the 26 butlers and 4 chefs would be S$62,000‬. This is about half of the Singapore President’s monthly gross wage.

Some have also highlighted that President Halimah’s monthly gross wage is 48 times that of the monthly gross wage of a chef at the Istana. Comparatively, the US President – who earns no more than $400,000 a year – earns six times the salary a White House chef would earn.

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Data available online suggests that sous chefs or assistant chefs employed at the White House earn an average salary of US$66,801 a year. The head chef of the White House would take home an income in the range of US$80,000 and US$100,000 a year. -/TISG

Istana repeatedly refers to President Halimah Yacob as a “he”

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