There hasn’t been an update on the review of salaries for political appointment holders in Singapore, despite the year drawing to a close.
In January, the Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, Chan Chun Sing, confirmed that the government would look at the review for 2023 in response to a question by Ms Hazel Poa, a Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) from the Progress Singapore Party.
She inquired whether the government had appointed a committee to conduct the scheduled five-year review of political salaries.
However, as the year nears its end with various ministers on leave, there is still no news from the government regarding the formation of a committee to review these salaries.
On 10 January, Hazel Poa asked the Prime Minister:
a) Whether a committee had been appointed to carry out the five-yearly review of political salaries since the last committee in 2017; (b) If so, what are the terms of reference for the committee, and when can the public expect the report; and (c) If not, when is the committee expected to be appointed, and what are its expected terms of reference?
In response, Minister Chan Chun Sing acknowledged that the 2012 White Paper on ministerial salaries recommended appointing an independent committee every five years to review the salary framework for political appointment holders.
Mr Chan, who is also the Education Minister stated, “In 2018, the Government responded to the latest review of political salaries by an independent committee. The committee concluded then that the salary framework remained relevant and sound, recommending adjustments to the salary levels of political appointment holders to match the updated benchmark.”
However, the government decided against changing political salaries then, citing the economy’s transitional state. It mentioned it would revisit the matter after five years or when necessary.
Mr Chan disclosed, “The next political salaries review is targeted for 2023, and we will share more details in due course.”
The 2012 White Paper on ministerial salaries was introduced after many Singaporeans expressed dissatisfaction with the incumbent PAP government and voted against it during the 2011 General Election, resulting in the lowest percentage of valid votes in Singapore’s history and the first loss of a Group Representative Constituency.
To appease the public, the White Paper, chaired by Gerald Ee, lowered the salaries of ministers and other political appointees by benchmarking the entry MR4 Minister’s salary to the median income of the top 1,000 earners who are Singapore Citizens, with a 40% discount.
In 2018, The Committee to Review Ministerial Salaries noted a 9% rise in benchmark salaries and proposed adjusting political salaries annually in tandem with benchmark movements.
The suggested annual salary for entry-level ministers was S$1.2 million, including a 13th-month bonus, a three-month performance bonus, and a National Bonus based on meeting indicators.
Additionally, the committee proposed raising NCMPs’ allowances from 15% to 20% of elected MPs’ pay, acknowledging their full voting rights in Parliament since April 2017.
During a Parliamentary session in March 2018, former Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean stated that the government would maintain the current salary structure and level as the scheme remains valid and the economy is still transitioning.
Despite this, PAP politicians continue to be among the highest paid in the world.
For instance, PM Lee Hsien Loong is reportedly paid US$1.6 million annually, significantly more than many leaders of other first-world countries.
It’s uncertain if there will be an increase in the salaries of ministers and other political appointment holders this time, given their already high pay.
Following PM Lee’s announcement that he intends to hand over leadership to Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong by the PAP’s 70th anniversary in November 2024 before the next general election, there has been speculation that the next GE will be held next year, with the latest date being no later than 23 November 2025.
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