‘Real progress’ in ministeria​l pay debate

The 19 Jan 2012 Straits Times article “‘Real progress’ in ministerial pay debate” reported DPM Teo as saying that the review committee recommended a $46,750 starting salary for an entry-level minister with an annual typical package of $935,000.

The actual review committee recommendation was: “A Minister at the MR4 grade (i.e. entry-level grade) should be paid an annual salary of $1,100,000, a cut of 37%. A Minister at the lower end of this grade will start at an annual salary of $935,000.” The first sentence clearly states the entry level minister’s salary as $1,100,000. The second sentence complicates issues by stating there is a lower end to the minister entry level grade. But the minister entry level grade must be the lowest minister grade. Any grade lower than the minister entry level grade must be lower than the minister grade.

More clarification can be found in Table A of attachment 1 of the review committee’s report. The table clearly shows that $1,100,000 is indeed the salary of the MR4, the entry level minister grade. $935,000 is the salary of the senior minister of state instead. Clearly, the senior minister of state is not the minister.

DPM Teo has therefore wrongly quoted the review committee. The review committee’s recommended annual package for the entry level minister is $1,100,000, not $935,000. When worked backwards, the recommended monthly salary is $55,000, not $46,750. DPM Teo’s argument: “The WP proposed a monthly pay for ministers of $55,000 and an annual typical package of $852,500. The committee recommended a $46,750 starting salary for an entry-level minister with an annual typical package of $935,000.” is therefore false because he wrongly quoted the review committee.

Comparing apple to apple or minister to minister, the WP recommended the same monthly pay of $55,000 as the review committee. The WP did not recommend more than what the review committee recommended.

The WP’s $852,500 annual package recommendation should be compared against the review committee’s $1,100,000, not $935,000. As such, the WP’s figure is almost 25% less than what the review committee recommended, a difference not as insignificant as DPM Teo made it out to be.

Mr Edwin Tong’s comparison is even worse. He compared WP’s $715,000 to the review committee’s $607,750 recommended salary excluding variable bonuses. While there is nothing extraordinary with Mr Tong’s mistake of using the $607,750 meant for the senior minister of state as all PAP MPs made that mistake, what is extraordinary is that he even bothered to compare salaries without considering bonuses. Even the review committee didn’t make that comparison in their report. Why? Because it is so ridiculously irrelevant. Table C of attachment 3 shows that a good performer will get three months bonus. The PAP kept emphasising they have gotten the top 1,000 from the population, the cream of the cream. It’s taken for granted they will be ‘good’ performers if not ‘super-hero’ performers. Is Mr Tong telling us he expects this crop of ‘top 1,000’ ministers to churn out mediocre performance?

For salaries with bonus, Mr Tong compares the WP’s range of $880,000 to $1,017,500 with the review committee’s range of $935,000 to $1.23 million. Firstly, Mr Tong’s quote of $880,000 for the lower end of the WP recommendation differs from the $852,000 quoted by DPM Teo. How is this so? Because Mr Tong quoted WP’s Gerald Giam’s figure of three month’s minimum bonus whereas DPM Teo quoted WP’s Yee Jenn Jong’s figure of two and a half months bonus. Its strange that when quoting WP’s lower limit, Mr Tong used Gerald Giam’s figure of 3 months and not Yee Jenn Jong’s figure of 2.5 months but when quoting WP’s upper limit, Mr Tong didn’t use Gerald Giam’s figure of 5 months but used WP’s Yaw Shin Leong’s figure of 5.5 months instead. It seems like Mr Tong simply chose whichever figure that was higher.

The bottom line is this: the review committee’s figure is $55,000 per month, not $46,750 per month or $1,100,000 per year, not $935,000 per year. As far as monthly salary is concerned, WP’s figure is the same as the review committee’s. The difference is in the annual package. WP’s $852,500 is about 25% lower than the review committee’s $1,100,000.

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One Response to “‘Real progress’ in ministeria​l pay debate”

  1. John Harding Says:

    Good points. Still, even with the reduction, the Singapore ministers are very highly paid – way more than they would be in other countries.

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