Singapore ministers may get pay cut

Updated On: May 24, 2011

Singapore members of Parliament have welcomed the formation of the committee to review ministers’ pays.

Report: MPs welcome formation of ministerial pay review committee [ChannelNewsAsia, 22 May 2011]

The recent Singapore General Election 2011 exacerbated several issues which have made Singaporeans very disgruntled. Of these, ministerial salary was a hot topic, with most Singaporeans feeling that the salary is a tad too much.

Pegging ministerial salaries to the remuneration levels for top private-sector earners was a means of attracting talent to public service and preventing corruption. This means that salaries can rise even in an economic downturn, hence causing much unhappiness.

According to AFP, the move to address this concern signals the widening income gap as a priority for Singapore’s new cabinet. It also means they are looking to pursue a more balanced version of growth with the same outward looking strategy - which should be good news for international investors.

Report & Analysis: Singapore cabinet to cut pay under reform pledge [Inquirer News, 22 May 2011]

Within Singapore, political office holders say they understand the need for and are in favour of the review despite the high chance of their salaries getting cut.

Dr Janil Puthucheary, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said "Clearly that's what a lot of people do feel. I have to look at the figures and I can understand the sentiment and certainly I think it does need to be reviewed."

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Environment and Water Resources Minister, said "I see this as a symbol that everything is up for review. Nothing is sacrosanct. Having said that, I would like to leave the committee to do its work without interference and without us trying to pre-judge or prejudice the issue."

The task force formed to review the ministers’ salary is an eight-member review panel, headed by Mr Gerard Ee, the chairman of the National Kidney Foundation and Changi General Hospital. He was approached by newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister, Tharman Shanmugaratnam ‘quite recently’. Mr Teo Chee Hean, Singapore’s other Deputy Prime Minister, said that it is useful to have members in the committee who have a range of experience in a variety of sectors.

Report & analysis: Their pay is up for review [AsiaOne, 23 May 2011] 
Report & analysis: Principles from ministerial pay review may be applied to civil service: DPM Teo [ChannelNewsAsia, 23 May 2011]

Mr Ee has said he will ‘look at what is fair in the commercial sector,’ where people are willing to compete for top positions, a situation unlike the public service.  In addition he also said that the new salary formula will take into account the overall wage level of workers, but declined to say when the new salary scale would be implemented. As for people who compare Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong’s salary, to that of Barack Obama, arguably the most powerful political leader in the world, he retorts that one ‘cannot compare apples with oranges’.

Report: Singapore official says minister salaries likely to be cut after review of current formula [AP, 23 may 2011]

Though this piece of news signals the desire of the current ruling party to make a change, there are skeptics who believe this review is ‘simply a sign of the government going through the motions and nothing more’.

To this, Mr Ee says to wait for the report, which is to be out soon, and then people can judge for themselves.

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