MP Chen Show Mao's speech on Ministerial Salary Review

Speech by MP Chen Show Mao at the Parliamentary debate on political salaries on January 16, 2012.

Mr Speaker Sir,

The Workers' Party view the committee's report with a sense of hope because it is a step in the right direction. We agree with the three principles that political salaries should be competitive, that political service is a calling and has its own ethos, and that wages should be transparent.

Political service is a calling and not be treated as discount factor

However, the order by which the principles are applied has produced in our view a flawed new benchmark. Because competitive salary is placed as the first principle ahead of political service, the committee has pegged ministerial salary to the median salary of the 1000 top-earning Singaporeans and then applied a discount for political service.

If the new benchmark is accepted by the Government, it would continue to send the message, to potential political office holders and the people of Singapore alike, that top pay is the benchmark by which the importance of the office is to be judged, and that the value of political office can, in the final analysis, be monetized. It cannot be?Not even at the highest income levels. Political service is a calling; it is a privilege accorded by the electorate to serve the largest number of our fellow Singaporeans. It is primarily a privilege, not primarily a burden or sacrifice. The principle of political service should come first and not be treated as a discount factor.

Whole of Government, People-up approach

Because political service is in the genre of public service, we propose a whole-of-government, people-up approach that benchmarks Ministerial salary to MP allowance, which is in turn pegged to the pay of the civil service bench-marked to general wage levels. Because political service starts with our election as parliamentary representatives of the people, MP allowance should be the starting point. The Cabinet is the constitutional extension of Parliament and the institutional expression of the legislature's control over the executive. It is not an extension of the private sector.

This whole-of-government, people-up approach is a pragmatic reality in many well-governed, developed countries and territories around the world.

Is Singapore unique? Of course. But it is not so dissimilar to others that we cannot learn from their best practices and how they apply good principles.

For example, the committee writes, "As is international practice in Westminster Parliamentary systems, the … political appointment holders will also receive MP allowances as they have the dual roles of being MPs".

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