By Leong Sze Hian

From the annals of history

Thanks once again to reader ES who has sent me some very interesting archives from way back (as far back as 40 years ago) – here are some snippets from the annals of history on Ministerial pay:

In 1973, a Minister’s annual salary was about $58,500 ( monthly salary of $4,500 x 13 months assuming 1 month’s bonus). (see attached document dated 20 March 1973)

salary '73

Minister’s pay in 1973 – $2,500

Similarly, a Minister of State’s salary was $32,500 ($2,500 a month)

Now – up to $2,288,000?

Fast forward to now, an entry grade MR4 Minister’s pay (even after the recent reduction in Ministerial pay) is expected to range from $1,100,000 to  $1,457,500 (average of 20 months to 26.5 months as per the White Paper).

Quote from the White Paper: “In 2010, while the benchmark figure for the MR4 grade was $2,598,000[4] , the MR4 annual salary was $1,583,900, or 39% below the benchmark” !

Since the above is for an entry grade MR4 Minister, how much will MR3, MR2 and MR1 Ministers get?

I did the calculations and a MR1 Minister will get between $1,760,000 to $2,288,000 (based on 20 to 26 months) depending on the performance factors.

Increased 45 times?

For a MR4 Minister like a Minister of State, from $32,500 in 1973 to say $1,457,500 in 2013, is about 45 times, or a compound annualised increase of about 9.5 %.

Dear readers who are or know of Singaporeans who were working in the 1970s – has your pay gone up by about 45 times?

In this connection, when I read the news on 11 June about the NTUC’s I Care for My Cleaners campaign, the first thought that came to my mind was – are there low-wage civil servants like the low-wage workers in the private sector?

Poor civil servants?

Lo and behold – it was announced on 6 June – “Singapore’s largest employer, the Government, is going beyond the National Wages Council’s (NWC) recommendations and leading the way in boosting the pay of lower-wage workers.

It is giving Division IV employees, like storekeepers, an additional pay increase of $70 next month, on top of their annual increment.

This surpasses the NWC’s call last Friday for a built-in wage increase of at least $60 for workers earning a maximum of $1,000 a month.

The National Trades Union Congress welcomed the Government’s gift to the 3,600 workers on its lowest rung.

(For this) Division IV officers, the new (salary) range is between $1,205 and $1,470.” (“Extra $70 raise for lower-wage civil servants“, Straits Times, Jun 7)

Isn’t the maximum in the salary range rather low?

Increased 10 times only?

As I understand that a Division IV officer’s salary in 1973 was about $100 plus – does it mean that their salary only increased by about 10 times in the last 40 years?

So, Ministers increased by as much as about 45 times, whereas the lowest rung of civil servants only increased by about 10 times.

Perhaps like in The Animal Farm – some animals are (much) more equal than others!

Ministerial – civil servant Gini?

I then recalled reading about the remarks “Over the last three decades, the top one per cent of wage earners in the United States have enjoyed wage increases of about 250 per cent. The bottom 90 per cent have seen wage growth of only around 15 per cent.

While these numbers apply to the United States, similar trends have been found for some other countries, including Singapore” (“The ‘one per cent problem’ – fact, not hype“, Business Times, Jun 8).

If you think our Gini is bad enough, wait till you calculate the income gap between Ministers and Division IV officers, if there is such a calculation.

Is there any country in the world where a Minister’s (MR4) pay a day, at as much as $3,993 is more than 3 times that of  junior civil servants’ monthly pay? For a MR1 Minister, it may be as much as more than 4 times more.

Now, did the Ministerial Salary Review Committee make any reference to the above in their analysis? Not asking the obvious question again, is it?

Uniquely Singapore!


P.S. Thank you very much ES. I love your remarks:

“My understanding on the widening income gap:
The upper bodies work on a multiplication factor.
The lower bodies work on a plus or minus factor.”

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