Workers' Party calls for ministerial pay to be published annually

Chua Yini

A list of political salaries and national bonuses paid to leaders should be published yearly and subject to public scrutiny, said the Workers' Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Yaw Shin Leong on Monday.

Based on a video by Channel NewsAsia, Yaw explained in Parliament that this would be in line with the “clean wage” principle as advocated by the Ministerial Salary Review Committee.

He laid out two other proposals by the WP, which aims to enhance the “twin towers of accountability and transparency” in paying political leaders. 

Firstly, an independent commission should be formed each time the Prime Minister seeks to review the formula for ministerial salaries.

Secondly, the findings of the independent commission should be subject to debate and approval in Parliament.

“The principle of parliamentary sovereignty is of utmost importance. The report should be published to Parliament and thus to the public. Not first for the Prime Minister's eyes only and certainly not first to the ruling party's caucus,” he said.

Meanwhile, the WP’s proposal for an alternative framework for ministerial salaries, which pegs ministerial pay to MPs’ allowance, came under fire in Parliament for being similar to the Committee’s reports.

MP Vikram Nair from the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) pointed out that WP’s proposed salary for entry-level ministers would be higher than the committee's recommendation of S$46,750.

That would make a difference of S$99,000, close to two months’ bonus under the proposed scheme.

Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam also noted the similarity of the proposals in a Facebook post. “Looking at the Committee's Report, and the WP's proposals, there is not much difference. WP proposes that Ministers be paid between S$825k and S$935k. These amounts are well above the minimum that the Committee has proposed for Ministers - which is S$600k. And the average suggested by the Committee is at S$1.1m,” he wrote.

According to Channel News Asia, Yaw responded by saying that the WP took issue with the use of the top 1,000 income earners as benchmarks.

He said that the committee's recommended benchmark will result in an estimated 51-per-cent increase in the salaries by 2020, TODAY reported.

According to TODAY, When Nair pointed out that the salaries proposed by the committee over the next five years will still be less than the Workers' Party's base salary, Yaw responded by saying that they should “look at the long-term horizon”.

Yaw also added that ministerial pay would be lower according to the WP’s proposal as they would only receive a maximum of five months bonus, compared to 13.5 as recommended by the committee, TODAY reported.

In addition, WP Non-constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong pointed out that while the WP’s proposal may seem similar to the review committee’s recommendations, it sends a clear signal that ministers are elected by the people as their pay is pegged to MPs.