The Singapore Parliament in session / photo istana.gov.sg

Citizens voice their displeasure over MPs’ complaints about having “two full-time jobs”

In a Channel NewsAsia story dated 12 May, some Members of Parliament shared the stories of their lives after they decided to enter politics, saying that as a MP, they barely have time to do other things than to serve the country as all the activities are time-consuming.

MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC Zaqy Mohamad, who was a partner at accounting firm Ernst & Young at the time of his interview with Channel NewsAsia, stated that being in the Parliament is like having two full-time jobs.

He was quoted by CNA, “There’s no dispensation on my targets and KPIs, so despite having fewer hours than usual to work, you still have to perform to your role,” he explained. “You just have to be efficient and ensure that your targets are met.”

“In my previous firm, I used to take leave for Parliament sittings, and it could go all the way to a negative balance,” he added. “It becomes no-pay leave after that.”

“Now, I still take annual leave when there are important meetings I have to miss, or if I have to go overseas on Parliament business. But otherwise, they just benchmark me on my targets.”

Mr Zaqy was earlier appointed as adviser to Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC Grassroots Organisation after Mdm Halimah Yacob vacated her MP seat to stand in the Presidential Election 2017. He was also promoted to the Minister of State for National Development and Manpower in May this year and took on the role of the new deputy chairman of Yayasan Mendaki.

MP for Nee Soon GRC Lee Bee Wah, who is a professional engineer, said she had it better because she does not need to apply for annual leave.

She was quoted by CNA, “Before I merged my company, I got the understanding from the chairman that I don’t need to apply for leave for MP work,” she said. Dr Lee, who is a professional engineer, used to run her own engineering firm that she eventually merged with a bigger firm, Meinhardt.

Er Dr Lee currently holds the position of Group Director at Meinhardt Singapore.

“This was one of the conditions before I let my company go,” she said, but shared that she did have to take a pay cut in the process.

“I’m receiving about a third of what I should be getting, because I told them I could only afford to spend a third of my time for the company,” she explained.

“It’s a sacrifice I had to make.”

“The moment I decided to enter politics, I was very clear in my mind that my first priority is to serve my residents. Unfortunately this meant that I have to sacrifice my family time.”

An appointment as a Minister of State earns about $770,000 annually while a MP earns about $210,000. TOC understands that an appointment holder is entitled to the MP pay as well.

MPs’ spend their time mostly to hold Meet-the-People Sessions and spend time with residents; and in Parliament, where they undertake their role as legislators and seeing to the national interest when Parliament sits.

The report by CNA said that Parliament session took longer in the past few years, pointing that over the 12-odd years of data examined, there were 10 days that saw sittings that lasted nine hours or longer with six of which 10 days happened this year.

But one has to note that MPs do not sit through the Parliament sessions as to how we sat through our lectures at school. So long as one is present for a few minutes at the Parliament, he or she is considered present in the Hansard. This is why you can see the Parliament seemingly empty in the videos but most MPs marked as being present.

Former Nominated Member of Parliament Calvin Cheng wrote in the Facebook comments section, writing, “Stupid article by CNA. Badly written. MPs work far more hours in their constituencies than in parliament.”

Differing from Cheng’s view, a vast majority of the commenters voiced out that the MPs should not complain about their work as they received a huge salary for the so-called “part-time job”.

Philip Phay wrote, “Please note that the MPs monthly allowance is $15,000. How many of us is earning $15,000 a month? Plus their own day job/profession salary. One time in so many years cowpeh simi?”

Shannon Knight wrote, “In the first place, any political job MUST be full time. This is a joke and a slap to the people of Singapore to say something like this. We pay the highest salaries in the world to our politicians only for them to be allowed to be our part-time representatives. Absurd!”

Christopher Bong wrote, “See how spoilt the MPs are? Like working two full time jobs, what a joke. How many days does parliament sits? Look at the empty seats during parliament, 10 hours and they are complaining that they are like doing two jobs. Walk round their constituencies, stop joking, one does not see any MPs after the elections, easier to spot the Loch Ness than to see any MPs. Once during an MP visit, by the time I open my door in respond to the doorbell, there is no one at the door other than a note stating that they were here and no one is in. What a load of hogwash.”

Muhamad FazLy wrote, “90% of your citizens have been working more then 10 hours everyday for the past 20 years at least or more. You idiots in 12 years only one time seat for 10 hours plus, so proud asked the reporters to tell the whole world.”

Andy Yeo wrote, “What kind of MPs we are having now? Don’t worry next election we will release all of you from your hard work! Confirm plus chop!”

Keat Low wrote, “Some full time job required more than 10 hrs every weekday and some even work on wekend and yet pay less than the MP. Do you know what you are talking about?”

Dennis Wan wrote, “Work longer but bring commoners nothing but more tax and worsen cost of living. Pay raise some more to $15,000. They don’t even know how many commoners facing salary freez or even retrenchment during this tough years while our cost of living keep increasing by this so call “long hours effort” bad policy. very Disappointing seeing such comments.”

Luke Wong wrote, ‘Some people choose to collect cardboards for exercise and get paid a pittance; some choose to work an additional part time job and get paid $15,000 for it.”

Raymond Koh wrote, “They think it is just “like holding two full time jobs” but in reality they work many part time jobs sitting on this board and that board. I never hear them complain about taking on more jobs when there is money to be made and now they think sitting down for hours serving the needs of people is a hard job?
Now you know what kind of MPs you voted for.”

Jag Kuo wrote, “Most MPs don’t even actively run the town council, most are run by estate manager or by the town council committee, MP mainly endorses their work or does the PR work. ”

Heo Ba wrote, “So it’s telling me it’s affecting their another work. Aren’t MP suppose to do it for the people of Singapore? Do not forget you are paid for it too. If you think too low or too tiring not worth it then make an exit then.”

Daniel Yap wrote, “I’m trying to recall my longest workday in the last 12 years, but I assure you it was way more than 10.5 hours.”

Farook Abdul wrote, “I did 10plus hours thrice this week alone and nobody bat an eyelid. Oh, and I wasn’t sitting down and listening to other people talk. Where’s my MP level pay?”

Daniel Teo wrote, “This photo looks so nice…most of the time it’s so empty! One thing I need to comment is they are highly paid to do so, they don’t do for free and what they are being paid is highest in the world. CEO of company are also highly paid and when they don’t make money for the company, they will be fired but only 1 CEO is so special that after she have lost millions of dollars in the investment, she is still holding to the post and high salary + bonus!”

Shelley Chew wrote, “Haha. More than 10 hours only. Get real! They are in the seating, listening n agreeing with SG01 most of the time, no brain required. While it is common for us to work for more than 10 hours day in day out to meet our government call for increase productivity.

Lalit Kumar Verma wrote,”‘For million dollars, if you call it a sacrifice then you don’t deserve it. It should be your passion!
If you can’t handle it then quit. Eat what you can digest!”

HC Ng wrote, “No wonder our gini coefficient is so high because we have lazy out of touch lawmakers in our parliament who don’t know the different between 10 hour of just sitting and listening vs 10 hour of collecting plates and cleaning shopping malls!”

Jason yek wrote, “I have been working for an average of 14 hours. 24/7. Including Public Holiday and even my CNY for the pass three years just to make end meet. Yet you are complaining about your working hour. To me it’s only a short hour. And yet you get to enjoy your meals. Every minutes. Talking nonsense.”

Gary Tan wrote, “Like I always said most of them with silver spoon in their mouth are out of touch and only talk through their rear.”

Sun Lee wrote, “Shame for PAP! Selected this kind of irresponsibility MPs. They are considered as talented people. He (is) supposed to serve the people and not complain.”

Brendan Tan wrote, “This MP draw $15000 monthly salary and yet complained about long working hours. He’s not fit to serve the people of Singapore. Should be sacked.”

Sunny Hassan wrote, “Some Singaporean have to work double shifts just enough to make month end! And here MPs who paid $15,000 month on part time basis said this is are the things they have to sacrifice. Halo! You are elected to serve Singaporean and not the other way round.”

Kevin Goh wrote, “That is why our politician has no street wisdom even when answering reporters simple question. Wouldn’t it be wiser to say, ‘The longer the hrs the greater the challenge for us as MPs. It gives us more opportunities to contribute.’ It’s stupid to be so technical and reveal your elite personality when the common man works for less than $2,000 for 12hrs.”

Alex Tan wrote, “Get ready. They gonna announce their pay increment soon.
Have to float test balloons to say how hard they work so can justify increasing their already world class pay.”

Jason lee wrote, “How many 10-15k job work that number of hours? You see this typically in regional role talking to UK/US?
If you think it is too tough, quit. There are plenty of capable people who are willing to takeover.”

Kelvin Chan wrote, “The quality of words coming from their mouth seriously make me doubt their capabilities. If he or she said that it like taking 2 full time job, how many Singaporeans are lucky to be paid $15,000 for a part time job? Just shut up and do your job. You chose it. No free lunch mate.”

Jonus Jun wrote, “I don’t mind to sit there even for 24 hours dozing off knowing I have million dollars inside my bank account at the end of the year.”

Llewellyn Gan wrote, “Public servants serve the nation and it is their duty to do so why would such news or article be even had the audacity to be shown. What about the people on the ground of which achieving twelve hours is not uncommon . Is the intention of this just to ask people to cut off some slack on their nation serving duties.”

Sam Seah wrote, ‘Seating in air con comfort for 12 hours and enjoying and 5 figure allowance.
Most of us citizens are working like that with only $2,000 per month. Now they feel our pain? While we are working outside, nobody is taking care of our kids as compared to the elites, they have all the money to get the most professional help with their kids. Have you felt our pain for our kids?”

Michael Tan wrote, “Really out of touch to the ground. Lim Pei at age 61 works 12 hours everyday, 7 days a week, as a taxi driver also never complain. Do you know I have not watch tv or even look at the tv for 5 years?”

John Han wrote, “If they cannot stand it, then resign Loh. It’s good there are more topics to touch on. It’s the bread and butter of the people. LKY once said, he was a bit worried about the topic raised in parliament.
Go to the topic and address it. Don’t play with words and don’t keep asking people for apology. Because this is a waste of time. So don’t KPKB why sessions are getting longer.”