Ministerial pay must attract right people: DPM Teo

A judgment call on the amount of salary for ministers must be made, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Parliament today.

Starting off the parliamentary debate on a new benchmark for ministerial pay, he tabled a motion for the House to endorse recommendations from the eight-person committee that reviewed ministerial salaries.

According to a Straits Times report, while he said that the most important criterion for anyone seeking political office is 'first and foremost the motivation to serve our nation and our people', he said 'having a passion for public service is not itself sufficient to run a country well'.

Thus, he says a judgment call must be made so that the salary is high enough so as not to deter capable people from public service, but must be low enough to provide a 'continuing connection between ministerial salaries and the well-being and overall progress of Singaporeans'.

Mr Teo enumerated important qualities for ministers to possess, including organisational and leadership capabilities, the ability to take charge and handle crises, and to hold his own with world leaders and further Singaporeans' interests.

While he did not discount that there may be people outside the top 1,000 Singaporean earners who possess such qualities, he said: 'But looking at the responsibilities of the jobs that these 1,000 hold, we agree with the committee that this is a reasonable level that reflects the quality and abilities of people that Singapore seeks to, indeed needs to, bring in as ministers for continued good government.'

In the review of ministerial salaries submitted two weeks ago by the committee headed by National Kidney Foundation chairman Gerard Ee, it was recommended that ministerial pay be pegged to the median income of the top 1,000 Singaporean earners, with a 40 per cent discount.

Previously, it was pegged to the median income of the top eight earners in six professions, with a one-third discount.

About 40 MPs are expected to weigh in on the issue over the next few days. Although Parliament will vote to endorse the White Paper, the new salary recommendations do not need to pass to be put in place.

The Government has made it clear that it will accept the recommendations.

"The government has considered the committee's report carefully, and is satisfied that the committee has studied this subject of political salaries very thoroughly," DPM Teo said today.

"The government therefore intends to accept the committee's recommendations. They are fair and balanced, and are an improvement to the previous salary framework."

Earlier today, the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Michael Palmer announced in his opening speech that he accepts the salary recommendations.

He also revealed that he has received messages of acceptance regarding the recommendations on their salaries from the two Deputy Speakers of Parliament, Mr Charles Chong and Mr Seah Kian Peng; President Tony Tan and his predecessor SR Nathan; and former Speaker of Parliament Mr Abdullah Tarmugi as well as former Deputy Speakers of Parliament Mr Matthias Yao and Ms Indranee Rajah.