Friday 20 June 2014

NS a duty, not a job — thus no ‘salary’

We thank Mr Richmond Lee for his letter “Why did panel decide not to raise NS allowance?” (June 12).

The National Service (NS) allowance is meant to support our full-time national servicemen in their basic personal upkeep, taking into account the accommodation, food and uniforms that are provided for them.

Also, the allowance recognises national servicemen with heavier responsibilities, such as those in command positions. The allowance and rank pay of national servicemen should not be computed as salaries, as NS is a duty and not a job.

Over the years, we have recognised NSmen’s contributions in other ways, such as the NSman tax relief, the NS Bonus, additional allotments of the GST Offset Credit and Growth Dividends, as well as the NS45 Safra and HomeTeamNS Benefits.

The Committee to Strengthen NS further recommended that the NS Recognition Award be revamped and enhanced into the NS Housing, Medical and Education Awards of between S$15,000 and S$16,500 to better support national servicemen in their housing, health-care and education needs.

The committee also recommended providing life and personal accident insurance coverage to servicemen to cover incidents during their full-time NS and their Operationally Ready NS call-ups.

Teo Eng Dih
Director (Manpower)
Ministry of Defence
TODAY, Voices, 18 Jun 2014

Why did panel decide not to raise NS allowance?

I am happy that new conscripts and operationally-ready national servicemen alike will be better rewarded (“Recommendations ‘strengthen NS for future generations’”; June 11).

I wonder, though, why one of the crucial aspects of National Service (NS) that could have been strengthened, which would be to pay NSmen more to better honour them for their time and commitment, was not.

Conscripts, regardless of education level, are now paid S$480 a month during Basic Military Training. Once they graduate from command school as a specialist, they are paid around S$800 a month. The difference compared with a regular specialist with A-Levels or a diploma is about three times, on average. Why was this gap not narrowed?

I suppose all junior commanders start out having equal responsibilities and workloads.

Would increasing the NS allowance not better reflect the contribution of the full-time national serviceman (NSF) and boost his morale?

Raising allowances for all NSFs, though, would cost more to state coffers. To finance this, the Singapore Armed Forces could have considered channelling the portion of money used for catering food to top up allowances.

Assuming a meal costs S$5, lunch and dinner would cost about S$300 monthly for each in-camp NSF.

That extra monthly sum in the hands of NSFs could be better utilised, for instance, for their family’s utility bills and groceries or saved for their tertiary education.

By restricting the cost of cookhouse meals, NSFs could buy from the caterers at a subsidised rate, while regulars could pay the full cost. Having a choice in buying meals may even improve the standards of cookhouse food.

The time, opportunity costs and onerous duties that NSmen undertake to serve and defend Singapore are unquestionable. The onus is perhaps on the policymakers to address whether this good service deserves to be compensated at a better rate.

Richmond Lee
TODAY, Voices, 12 Jun 2014

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