Suggestions that politicians can work without incentives is a seductive notion, especially during an election period, says the Minister of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), Vivian Balakrishnan.
The minister was speaking at a National Day Rally public forum organised by the government's feedback outfit, REACH.
A participant had questioned the honorarium which Members of Parliament (MP) receive - which is S$16,000 a month, or $192,500 annually.
If an MP sat for the full parliamentary term of five years, he would have been paid almost a million dollars - S$962,000.
Ministers receive salaries which run into the millions.
In his response to the question raised at the forum, Dr Vivian said there are only two kinds of people who would work without incentives - those who are wealthy, and those who are corrupt.
“Don’t be seduced," he was quoted by the TODAY newspaper as having said. "The danger with elections is it’s an auction. Everybody would promise you the moon. Everybody would say they don’t need pay on the assumption either they don’t need to deliver, or things will go wrong.”
The amount of honorarium being paid to MPs and the salaries received by ministers have been hot topics for many years, particularly for MPs whom some see as just a part-time job, given that MPs themselves have their own private careers.
But REACH chairman, Amy Khor, said that being in the industry would help her to contribute more.
“You have to look at it more broadly," said Dr Khor, who is also Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Health. "Is the MP contributing as you expect? In fact, if I can do that, and I still can add value because I have a better understanding of what’s going on outside in the real world. Isn’t that giving you more value?”
In recent weeks, after an online website published a list of the number of times each MP has spoken in the last parliament (2011 - 2015), some were shocked to learn that some MPs had spoken up in the House for only a handful of times in those four years, and questioned the amount of taxpayers' money paid to these MPs.
These included former ministers such as Mah Bow Tan and Wong Kan Seng.
It was also reported that the former Transport Minister, Raymond Lim, had not made a single parliamentary speech since being replaced as Transport Minister in 2011.
Mr Lim has since announced that he will be retiring from politics at the upcoming elections.