Former ST Editor: If NCMP Hazel Poa hasn’t asked about ministerial salary, nobody would have

Former editor of Straits Times, Bertha Henson made a Facebook post on Thursday (12 Jan 2023) noting that if the Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) from the opposition hadn’t asked in Parliament with regard to the upcoming review of ministerial salary, none of the People’s Action Party ministers would be discussing this “uncomfortable issue”.

On Tuesday (10 Jan 2023), NCMP Hazel Poa from Progress Singapore Party asked the Prime Minister in Parliament:

(a) whether he has appointed a committee to carry out the five-yearly review of political salaries, given that the last committee was appointed in 2017;
(b) if so, what are the terms of reference given to the committee and when can the public expect the report from the committee; and
(c) if not, when is this committee expected to be appointed and what are its expected terms of reference.

Replying on behalf of PM Lee, Chan Chun Sing, who is the Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, acknowledged that, indeed, the 2012 White Paper on ministerial salaries had recommended that an independent committee be appointed every five years to review the salary framework for political appointment holders.

“In 2018, the Government provided its response to the latest review of political salaries by an independent committee,” Chan said.

“The committee had concluded then that the salary framework remained relevant and sound, and its recommendations included adjusting the salary levels of political appointment holders to match the updated benchmark.”

However, the government then decided not to make any changes to political salaries, since the economy was still in transition. It said it would review the matter again after five years, or when it becomes necessary.

“The next political salaries review is targeted for 2023, and we will share more details in due course,” Chan disclosed.

Paid among highest in the world

The 2012 White Paper on ministerial salaries was put up after many Singaporeans got angry with the incumbent PAP government and voted against the PAP during the 2011 General Election, resulting in the ruling party garnering the lowest percentage of valid votes in the history of Singapore and the first loss of a Group Representative Constituency.

To appease the public, the White Paper, written by an independent committee chaired by Gerald Ee, then helped to lower the salaries of ministers and the other political appointees somewhat by benchmarking the entry MR4 Minister’s salary to the median income of the top 1,000 earners who are Singapore Citizens but with a 40% discount.

Still, with the new salary formula devised by the committee, PAP politicians continue to remain among the highest paid in the world. For example, according to World Population Review, PM Lee is currently paid US$1.6 million annually:

Salary (in USD) of PM Lee compared with that of others:

  • PM Lee Hsien Loong – $1,610,000
  • Chief Executive Hong Kong – $672,000
  • United States President – $400,000
  • Australian Prime Minister – $384,000
  • Chancellor of Germany – $369,727
  • British Prime Minister – $200,000

And in fact, even under the revised salary in 2012, many of Singapore’s ministers and civil servants make more than some of the mentioned heads of states of other first-world countries.

Nevertheless, it’s not known if the salaries of ministers and other political appointment holders will be increased this time since they are already among the highest-paid politicians in the world.

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