Drawbacks on pegging ministers' pay to that of foreign leaders

There are drawbacks with the suggestion that ministers' salaries here should be benchmarked to those of foreign leaders, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean yesterday.

Mr Teo, who is also the Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, said: "Political pay levels and structures based on domestic political considerations in one country may not correlate with the conditions in another."

It is thus more apt to benchmark and structure political salaries here to local economic and social conditions, such as employment level and Singaporeans' income, he said.

Mr Teo was putting forth the motion to endorse the recommendations of the Committee to Review Ministerial Salaries set up by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last year.

Beyond political factors, Mr Teo pointed out the differences between Singapore and other countries in terms of size, make-up of population and philosophy of governance.

He went on to explain how Singapore has to assemble the Cabinet from a smaller pool of able people, as compared to places with larger populations such as Britain and Japan.

Reiterating the importance of Singapore's leadership selection "more so than in other countries", he said: "We are a small, multi-ethnic country, set in a volatile region and facing the full force of global competition; our challenges are complex and many."

He added: "We are a city-state which is critically dependent on good governance to survive, sustain ourselves and achieve success."

The key recommendations of the committee include pegging the ministerial pay to the median income of the top 1,000 Singaporean earners, with a discount of 40 per cent.

With the proposed changes, which the Government intends to accept, Mr Lee's pay will be equivalent to that of the 382nd Singapore Citizen income earner - with a total annual salary package of $2.2 million.

Mr Lee had stood at the 175th position in 2010 with a salary of $3.1 million.

Mr Teo also revealed that the top 1,000 earners here earn $1.3 million or more, based on data from the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.

The data also showed that 48 per cent of them held senior- management positions across industries such as retail and health care.

During the debate which followed, Workers' Party Member of Parliament (MP) Chen Show Mao proposed pegging ministerial salaries as multiples of an MP's allowance as they "are first and foremost elected as MPs to serve and represent the people".

With ministerial pay pegged to that of the top earners here, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC Inderjit Singh called for high standards of accountability.

He said: "If a minister consistently performs poorly and less than satisfactorily, the Prime Minister should be quick to replace him, as is done in the private sector."

nggwen@sph.com.sg


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