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Unanswered questions on ministers’ pay

See Leong Kit /

( Writer's letter to TODAY Voices was rejected for publication )

The letter "Clearing the air on pensions" ( TODAY May 14) from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is just a first step on transparency and accountability expected by our taxpayers and voters.

Thinking Singaporeans do not expect our politicians and senior bureaucrats to live on "fresh air and love of the people".  They will readily support reasonable and adequate remunerations for such public servants.

However, since 1994, there has been never-ending public consternation over  the million-dollar remunerations of our political office holders.

As such remunerations are paid out of public funds, our taxpayers certainly have the right to know the true facts.  Lack of transparency on this rightful public concern will only aggravate the voter disenchantment that is so evident in the recent general elections.

In the private sector, to promote good corporate governance, the Singapore Stock Exchange requires public-listed companies to disclose the Total Annual Pay packages within salary bands for their CEOs and other senior staff.

Our public sector should also follow suit as an act of good political governance.

For 2010, the reported Total Annual Pay packages of the CEOs of Temasek-linked companies such as DBS, CapitaLand, Semcorp Marine and Keppel Corp ranged from $6.7m to $11.5m.

In 2007, CapitaLand CEO Liew Mun Leong, a former civil servant, received a whopping Total Annual Pay of $20.5m, which led to a public outcry.

For our political office holders, their disclosed Basic Annual Pay are currently $2m for Minister, $3m for Deputy Prime Minister and $3.4m each for the former Minister Mentor and the Senior Minister.  The PM himself receives S$3.76m*. However, their undisclosed Total Annual Pay packages which allegedly comprise such items as basic pay, mid-year bonus, year-end bonus, GDP bonus, Performance bonus have been an endless source of speculation on the Internet.

Taking the cue from the CEO pay packages of Temasek-linked companies, some netizens  deduced that  the Total Annual Pay packages of Temasek Holdings CEO Ho Ching and our Cabinet ministers would likely be in the two-digit millions and upwards of $15m.  But this could mean anything between $15m and $99m.

Thus, the onus is now on the PMO to issue a credible public statement to dispel once and for all the widespread Internet rumours and misinformation surrounding ministers' Pay.  Additionally, will the postponed third round of their salary increases proceed as planned or be permanently scrapped?

 

* 3:17pm: Earlier today the sentence read "The PM himself receives S$3.4m." We have just corrected the error, as the PM actually receives S$3.76m.