3 Jun 2011, 7.13PM
At the recent swearing-in ceremony of the new Cabinet, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced the formation of an independent committee to review the basis and level of salaries of the President, Prime Minister, political appointment holders and Members of Parliament.
Welcoming what they perceive to be a long overdue move, REACH contributors have hailed the review, with many sharing that they expect to see a downward revision in salaries. Many express support for the notion of comparing political salaries with comparable jobs in the private sector, and call for greater accountability and transparency in the computing of political salaries.
Some express cynicism that any real change will come out of the review, believing that this is merely an attempt to appease disenchantment on the ground. Such negative sentiments intensified following a comment by an MP that the salaries paid to Ministers cannot be lower than those of private sector Chief Executive Officers they may come into contact with, so as to maintain their dignity. Contributors strongly disagree with the statement, noting that it implies that dignity is measured only in monetary terms. The subsequent clarification on and apology for the comment received support from many, with some also noting that the remarks did not make the MP any less effective.
Some contributors express reservations about imposing private sector benchmarks on political salaries, noting the inherent differences between the qualities, responsibilities and expectations of leaders in the two respective sectors. Several also believe that it is not appropriate for politicians have to suffer a pay cut to prove their sincerity in serving the people. They raise concerns that this will counter efforts to attract top talents to the Public Service.
The credibility of the eight-member Committee set up to review political salaries also came into question, with contributors citing a lack of transparency on how and why the committee members were selected. Some view several Committee members as having close ties to the Government, and wonder whether they could truly be impartial in their work in the committee as a result of such close ties.
Despite much speculation that the review is merely an attempt to appease negative sentiments and that no real change will likely result, contributors were forthcoming in their suggestions to the Committee. For instance, many agreed that it is important to set measurable and clearly defined Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for each job, with salaries being pegged to a formula incorporating these KPIs. Other suggestions include reducing the President’s pay most substantively; removing the pension scheme for political appointees; basing politicians’ salaries on their last drawn salary as well as their individual portfolios; and differentiating between the salaries payable to part-time and full-time MPs.
Selected Contributors’ Quotes:
“It's a panacea for the public when this pay review is carried out. Of course there will be people questioning the credibility of the committee members. Can't please everyone, but we all expect a downward revision of the minsters' pay.” – Guest, via discussion forum
“Pay Ministers what they deserve and not scrimp on what I consider a fairly trivial and petty issue in relation to the bigger picture and our capabilities… I think we should pay them even more if it keeps our Government efficient and clean, and helps recruit and retain the best talent we can possibly have.” – Sun Whye Mun, via email
“I don't agree with the rationale that reasonable pay will help to maintain a bit of dignity. Dignity is not and should never be measured by monetary terms. If that's the case, what dignity is there to speak of for those who earn meagre salaries?” – Guest, via discussion forum
"It sounds sensible that the last drawn salary should be the benchmark." - minefield99, via discussion forum
"This exercise to review Ministerial pay would be futile because it would be viewed by the public as not sincere. To really convince the public, the Review Committee should be nominated by the public rather than selected. In this way, the public would be satisfied with the results of the Review Committee." - Guest, via discussion forum