4 Apr 2007

Singapore: Ministerial Salary Hike – Please Don’t Leave Workers Behind

Surely the local Singapore media should be picking up on this press release.

Press Release - Ministerial Salary Hike – Please Don’t Leave Workers Behind
Tue, Apr 03, 2007

The NSP shares the people’s displeasure over the latest campaign by the PAP government to justify salary hike for the civil servants. The government should not think that the common people would not understand the implication that the hike will invariably translate to even higher salaries for the Ministers. Such an assumption would be highly insulting to the people.

The NSP does not disagree with the fundamental principle that career civil servants should receive just rewards for their useful contributions to the public. However, as officeholders elected by the public, it is wrong for Ministers to demand salaries far higher than the non-elective state employees. Furthermore, it is inadmissible to rigidly peg Ministerial salary benchmarks to the highest earners in the private sector instead of pegging to the Ministers’ measurable performance.

Even without more salary increment, the Ministers are by no means short-changed. Ministers (as well as Parliamentary Secretaries and Speakers of the House) are eligible for pension after 8-years of service in their respective offices. Ministers also continue to draw a ministerial salary even as they are cashing in their pension. And with a salary that would effortlessly qualify them for the small exclusive segment of multi-millionaires of the country for which there are less than 2%, there is little reasons for Ministers to think they are underpaid.

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Lim Swee Say recently commented that pay hike for Ministers will benefit workers. Regrettably, he did not clarify that the pay hike will mainly contribute to the widening of the gap between the median wage (the wage below which 50% of the workers are earning) and the average wage, a figure skewed higher by having more high-earners. Moreover, workers have to brave hikes in GST, public transport, electricity, and postal services, while Ministers ‘weather’ a hike in their salary. The NSP believes that the formula for Ministerial salary must factor in the wage disparity between the low and high earners, as well as the structural unemployment rate. We further believe that the formula must be made transparent to the public.

The NSP further questions the logic of Senior Parliamentary Secretary Amy Khor that other countries with low reported salaries for their Ministers would not have a good, clean, and efficient government. We believe the availability of examples like Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland (which the Singapore government had wanted to emulate) exposes the flawed argument that the progress of a country depends on highly-paid Ministers who demand ever more.

Ultimately, we will like to remind the PAP government that the money to fund the salary hike does not descend from the heavens, and will unavoidably result in higher taxes, fees, charges, and levies for the common people, if the country’s reserves are not to be compromised.

In conclusion, the NSP is unconvinced that inflationary salary increment for Ministers is justified. It is morally abhorrent for the PAP government to attempt to misguide the nation into believing that the value of the highest elected public offices of a country is measured principally by the amount of remuneration that is paid to the Ministers. We do not welcome the development where the Singapore government is increasingly opined by the public as ‘political mercenaries’.

We believe that the disquiet from the ordinary citizens warrants the matter to be put to a national referendum. The PAP Ministers should also candidly state to Singapore voters during all future General Elections the price of their service which the nation is expected to pay (if they are elected), so as to accord voters the opportunity to fairly assess their choices.

The NSP respects the frequent proclamation by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong that his government will “leave no one behind”. But with another Ministerial salary hike, almost everyone will be left far behind.

Central Executive Council
National Solidarity Party

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