From iTODAY:Assuming top earners are top talent is 'elitist': WP
Lin Yanqin | 7 Jan, 2012 6:00 AM
SINGAPORE - Rather than an approach that assumes "top earners are also top talent", the Workers' Party (WP) has recommended a more "people-up" approach in setting ministerial salaries.
In its response to the proposed ministerial salary cuts announced on Wednesday, the WP said yesterday that ministers' salaries should be set at "reasonable multiples" of a Member of Parliament's (MP) allowance.
This should be in turn pegged to the salary of divisional directors in the Civil Service, excluding the Administrative Service, which currently stands at about S$10,000 per month for the "superscale" grade.
While the recommendations of the committee in charge of reviewing ministerial salaries are "a step in the right direction towards grounding political leaders with a stronger sense of public service and mission", the WP said the proposal to peg ministers' salaries to the 1,000 top income earners is "flawed".
"The committee's proposed formula also assumes that political talent is found only among the top 1,000 income earners. This reflects an elitist mindset that earning power is the primary indicator of one's ability," the WP said.
The incomes of the "super-rich" Singaporeans "generally rise much faster than the rest of the population, potentially escalating the salaries of ministers in subsequent years", it added.
The WP also said its proposed method of benchmarking is similar to what is done in other developed economies - including Australia, Germany, Hong Kong, the United States and the United Kingdom.
In its report, the review committee had said it had considered benchmarking the salaries to what other world leaders are paid, but determined there were several downsides.
For instance, many countries do not adopt a "clean wage" principle and may top up salaries with less visible perks and allowances, it had said.
Commenting on the WP's proposals, People's Action Party (PAP) MP Zaqy Mohamad said that, while the WP has taken a different philosophy, the end-result could be a number not far from the S$1.1 million the review committee came up with for entry-level ministers, depending on how the multiplier is determined.
Fellow PAP MP Edwin Tong felt that "it should not be for the money" that people become ministers, but neither should the final number be a "deterrent".
"There is merit in (WP's argument) but it could rule out a lot of people at the top with something to contribute," he said.
The WP, which said its MPs will elaborate on its proposals in Parliament on Jan 16, also said the National Bonus payments for ministers could be deferred, bearing in mind that "some national goals are longer-term in nature, requiring an assessment over the term of a government, not annually".
The WP also recommended that the Annual Variable Component proposed by the review committee be done away with. "This is unnecessary, since there is already a National Bonus based on national economic outcomes," it said, adding that the sum of the total variable components should be capped at "a reasonable number of months".
Other Opposition parties had earlier weighed in on the review committee's recommendations, which the Government has said it intends to accept.
The Singapore Democratic Party has suggested that "continued revisions" of political salaries be done on an annual basis by an independent committee, while the National Solidarity Party said it was "disappointed" with the recommendations, as the proposed salaries are still much higher than those of heads of states or governments in other developed countries.
The Reform Party, meanwhile, felt the proposed recommendations give ministers "a powerful incentive to pursue policies that increase the earnings of the top" at the expense of the incomes of median Singaporeans.
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