With the PAP and Workers’ Party reaffirming their belief that ministers’ in Singapore should be paid million-dollar salaries, the Singapore Democrats has renewed their 2011 call for such salaries to be slashed by over 50 percent.
Sharing the SDP’s paper on ethical salaries, which was published in November 2011, SDP chief Dr Chee Soon Juan called for greater transparency from the government, saying:
“Mr Teo Chee Hean should stop stonewalling and come right out and tell the people exactly how much he and his fellow ministers are paid. The people have a right to know.”
This comes as anger mounts against the high bonuses which ministers are paid, which sees ministers making upwards of one million dollars a year. 70 percent of Singaporeans believe that ministers are overpaid.
In its paper on ethical salaries, the SDP said that the current method of paying variable bonuses should be abolished, and instead all elements of a ministers’ salary should be determined by a non-partisan commission with non-government representatives.
It recommended that ministers’ and MPs salaries be pegged to the mean wage of Singapore bottom 20 percent percentile, with MPs earning 10 times of that wage. Ministers would earn 3 times of an MP’s allowance and the prime minister would receive 4 times of an MP’s allowance.
This would see cabinet ministers receiving about S$504,000 a year in wages, while the prime minister would receive S$672,000 in annual wages. In comparison, an entry-level minister earns about S$1.1 million a year today, while the prime minister earns about S$2.2 million.
The SDP said that such a formula for determining salary, rather than bonuses pegged to Singapore’s overall GDP growth, would be fairer as it would see leaders being rewarded when the overall quality of life of Singaporeans improves.
In addition, the SDP recommended that ministers be made to publicly declare their commercial interests, shareholdings, directorships and other financial duties and interests.
Parliamentarians may make claims for expenses incurred while performing official duties and these claims should be governed by a schedule similar to that practised by the civil service, and published by the salary commission for the purpose of transparency and accountability.
The SDP said that its recommendations are based on the spirit of public service, and that the emphasis on high wages to entice Singaporeans to take up public office is not in line with global democratic and public service standards.
“Political leadership is different from corporate leadership. While the former is motivated by a sense of serving the public, even to make personal sacrifices for the common good, corporate leaders are driven by profits, regardless of whether those profits benefit the nation or not. In the corporate sector, the company and its shareholders take priority over everything else, whereas government leaders must put the interest of the citizenry first.
Therefore, the kinds of people whom political parties need to attract are those who have the nation’s well-being at heart.”
The SDP also demonstrated how lower wages for top political leaders does not necessarily breed corruption.