Finance Minister’s political secretary Tony Pua (middle) is flanked by Securities Commission chairman Datuk Syed Zaid Albar (left) and Securities Commission chief regulatory officer Foo Lee Mei (right) at the launch of the Corporate Governance Monitor 2019. [BERNAMA]

KUALA LUMPUR: Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay has emerged as Malaysia’s highest paid chief executive officer (CEO) last year, earning a collective payout of RM248.61 million from two listed Genting Group companies.

Lim earned RM168 million in remuneration for his job as Genting Bhd CEO, and another RM80.61 million as the CEO of Genting Malaysia Bhd, according to the Securities Commission’ Corporate Governance Monitor 2019 (CG Monitor 2019) released today.

In his speech read out by political secretary Tony Pua at the launch of CG Monitor 2019 here yesterday, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng highlighted some companies had CEOs who were paid very high – that is, 17 times more than the median CEO pay highlighted in the report – despite those companies having reasonably average market capitalisations.

The minister urged the SC to follow up on its analysis of CEO remuneration with a review of key pay ratios and wage levels of employees in listed companies in CG Monitor 2020.

“Corporate Malaysia needs to play its part to ensure that Malaysian workers earn a decent wage with good work environment,” the minister said, in his speech.

Sapura Energy CEO Tan Sri Shahril Shamsuddin was paid RM71.92 million last year, in a list that also included CEOs from IOI Corp Bhd, Maxis Bhd, Public Bank Bhd, AirAsia Group Bhd and YTL Corp Bhd.

The highest paid government-linked companies (GLC) CEO last year was IHH Healthcare Bhd CEO Dr Tan See Leng, who was paid RM33.89 million.

Also in the top 10 list are IOI Corp’s Datuk Lee Yeow Chor (RM39.1 million), Maxis’ CEO Robert Nason (RM31.8 million), Public Bank’s Tan Sri Tay Ah Lek, AirAsia Group’s Tan Sri Tony Fernandes (RM23.5 million), YTL Corp managing director (MD) Datuk Yeoh Seok Kian (RM13.67 million) and Astro Malaysia Holdings Bhd former CEO Dato’ Rohana Rozhan (RM13.17 million).

For the ranking, the CG Monitor 2019 looks at the remuneration of CEOs of the top 100 listed companies on Bursa Malaysia’s Main Market, which were selected based on their market capitalisation as at December 31 last year.

The SC, however, said only 84 CEO remunerations were available out of the 100 listed companies that were selected for the monitor.

Of the 84 listed companies, 25 were family-controlled, 28 were GLCs and the remaining 31 were categorised as other listed companies.

Income disparity in Malaysia has long been a subject of contention.

A study published in October last year by Khazanah Research Institute (KRI) showed that the absolute earnings gap between Malaysia's top 20 per cent and the rest of the country had nearly doubled.

The study showed that in 2016, households with income below RM2,000 per month spent 94.8 per cent of their incomes on consumption while families earning above RM15,000 monthly spent only 45 per cent of their incomes on consumption.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Dr Mahathir Mohamad had noted on the income disparity between CEOs and their staff.

In his keynote address at the InvestMalaysia 2019 in March, Dr Mahathir said it was not fair if the pay for top management kept increasing while workers’ wages remained stagnant or rise marginally.

“We don’t want a thoroughly unequal society where capital owners take too much a chunk of national income, leaving the workers or low-income households with scraps.

“So, I urge all of you, to have a stakeholder mindset. Pay your workers better if you make more profits. We noticed that the pay for CEOs has been increasing multiple folds, but workers’ wages had been slow on the rise if not stagnant. This is not right.”

He also noted that if the disparity is left unchecked, it will create tension and hostility, and eventually lead to confrontations.