Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Ministerial salary structure totally transparent, with no hidden perks: DPM Teo Chee Hean

Parliament: DPM Teo explains clean wage system for ministers
Salary structure is totally transparent, with no hidden components or perks, he points out
By Yasmine Yahya, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 Oct 2018

All the bonuses paid to an entry-level minister form part of his $1.1 million normal annual salary, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday, refuting online falsehoods that the bonuses ministers receive are in addition to that amount.

Mr Teo set out in detail the components that make up a minister's pay package, a move that comes about three weeks after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issued a written response to a Workers' Party (WP) query on ministerial bonuses.

"The salary structure is totally transparent. There are no hidden salary components or perks," said Mr Teo.

He was replying to Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC), whose question follows that of WP's Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera, who asked last month about the bonus paid to Cabinet ministers. Mr Perera wanted to know the average total of bonus months, and the highest and lowest total of bonus months paid to a minister in the last five years.

Replying, PM Lee said political office-holders of all grades received an average annual performance bonus of about four months' pay in the last five years, with the sum for each individual ranging from three to six months of their pay each year.

Some online reports used the data to spread falsehoods that the Prime Minister is paid $2.2 million a year as a base salary that does not include bonuses, and that his total pay is $4.5 million. These reports also said the Government was not transparent about ministerial salaries.

Yesterday, Mr Teo said this was not true, and that all components of a political office-holder's annual pay are set out clearly in the 2012 White Paper on "Salaries for a Capable and Committed Government", which was submitted by an independent committee after extensive consultation with MPs and Singaporeans.

A minister's salary comprises fixed pay plus variable pay, which includes performance and national bonuses. They add up to form the normal annual salary of $1.1 million for an entry-level minister.

The Prime Minister's salary of $2.2 million, however, does not have a performance bonus component because there is no one to assess his performance. But to keep to the principle of making a significant part of the Prime Minister's total pay subject to performance, that is 35 per cent, the Prime Minister's variable pay has twice the national bonus compared with that of other ministers, to reflect national outcomes.

WP chief Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) asked if Mr Teo agreed the Government could have pre-empted the online misinformation by issuing a fuller reply to Mr Perera's question.

Mr Singh said a parliamentary committee, tasked to look into the issue of deliberate online falsehoods, had concluded that it is "more propitious to give all the information in an easy-to-understand manner for people, thus reducing the prospect of misinformation online".

Mr Perera, who wanted a written answer on ministerial pay, said he asked for total bonus months, and not just performance bonus. "Would that not have been an opportunity to... disclose and publish the national bonus level in addition to a performance bonus level?"

Mr Teo replied that the data Mr Perera wanted was given, but it was then "misinterpreted and became a widespread basis for false information".

And so, he said, he would clarify the issue, adding that he was delighted Mr Singh and the WP "are all for transparency and debunking falsehoods... I hope the WP will help us to clarify that position by putting it on its website also".

In wrapping up, Mr Teo said ministerial pay is a difficult subject to talk about. "It is an emotional one. There are misconceptions sometimes deliberately propagated. It is easily politicised."

Salary formula proposed by Workers' Party in 2012 would have given ministers the same pay, says DPM Teo
What WP proposed in 2012 was similar to that recommended by independent panel, he says
By Yasmine Yahya, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 Oct 2018

In the 2012 debate on ministerial pay, the Workers' Party (WP) had proposed a formula which would have paid an entry-level minister an annual salary similar to that recommended by an independent committee, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

"The proposals... are really very close to each other in principle and in quantum," he said during an exchange with WP chief Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) and Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera over ministerial pay.

"If there were a Workers' Party government in power today, by their own formula, the Workers' Party minister would be paid essentially the same as what a minister today is paid. Mr Pritam Singh would pay himself that same amount," Mr Teo added.

Responding earlier to Mr Alex Yam (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC), Mr Teo had noted that in 2012, "there was convergence in this House on both the principles as well as the quantum for ministers' salaries".

Compared with the White Paper issued by the independent committee, the WP formula would have had a higher fixed component of 81 per cent, and a smaller variable component of 19 per cent.

"This means the WP would have paid out a higher portion of the salary - about $880,000 out of $1.1 million, regardless of individual performance or national outcomes, and even if the outcomes were not achieved," Mr Teo said.

"This would have made the link between salary and performance weaker, though both the WP's and the White Paper's proposals would have added up to the same norm annual salary."

First, salaries must be competitive so that people of the right calibre are not deterred from stepping forward to lead the country.

Second, the ethos of political service entails making sacrifices and hence there should be a discount (of 40 per cent) in the pay formula, and third, there should be a "clean wage" with no hidden perks.

When pressed by Mr Perera for more information on ministers' bonuses, Mr Teo responded that "there was nothing secret" about them, and all ministers receive the same national bonus and annual variable component, aside from an individual performance bonus.

He then added: "But could I ask Mr Perera whether he agrees that ministers' salaries should be competitive, that the salaries should recognise the ethos of public service and that salaries should be transparent, which is the WP's position in 2012?"

Mr Perera said he had "no disagreement with those broad principles".

Mr Teo then asked if Mr Perera "agrees that the salary proposals that the WP had put forward in 2012 would essentially result in the same total annual salaries for ministers as the White Paper's, except for the WP proposal having a much larger component of fixed pay?"

To this, the NCMP said he was not in Parliament back in 2012.

Mr Teo shot back: "Mr Perera should not evade the question. I have provided him all the info there, it is there. Does he agree or not?"

Mr Perera responded that there were "no grounds" for him to disagree with what Mr Teo had said about the 2012 debate.

Mr Singh then jumped into the fray, saying: "Sir, the answer is yes, we agree."

The WP chief added that the figures in the comparison of the WP salary formula and White Paper formula were accurate.

He noted, however, that the WP had proposed a different benchmark for entry-level minister salaries, based on "what sort of message do you send to the public with regard to the total salary that ultimately is derived".

Last evening, the WP made a Facebook post to state that its position in 2012 was to base ministerial pay scales on the civil service's management executive scheme rather than the pay of the top 1,000 Singapore citizen earners. The party also said it agreed with the three principles in determining ministerial salaries.

It then posed the question of whether those principles remain reasonable, and what Singaporeans would consider to be a fair and respectable wage for a Singaporean minister "in view of the country's political circumstances, and bearing in mind the (People's Action Party's) electoral successes election after election".

Even knowledgeable people have misconceptions about ministerial salaries, says DPM Teo
By Yasmine Yahya, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 2 Oct 2018

Even knowledgeable and well-meaning people with a deep interest in politics are susceptible to misconceptions about ministerial salaries, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in Parliament yesterday.

He cited how the chairman of resort developer Banyan Tree, Mr Ho Kwon Ping, had said in an interview with Channel NewsAsia (CNA) published on Sunday that he was paid less than ministers.

But the interviewer pointed out to Mr Ho that, according to Banyan Tree Holdings' 2017 annual report, his salary, including benefits and a bonus, was more than $2.5 million.

Mr Teo told the House that this sum is "significantly higher than that of ministers and certainly not lower than ministers' salaries".

He added: "Ministers, for example, are responsible for tourism development or air transport. It is just one of their many responsibilities which contribute to the growth of the tourism industry in our region, which Mr Ho's company operates in."

Mr Teo drew on the case of Mr Ho to make the larger point that the subject of ministerial salaries is a difficult one to talk about.

"It is an emotional one. There are misconceptions sometimes deliberately propagated. It is easily politicised," he said. "Even knowledgeable, well-meaning people who have a deep interest in politics can be susceptible to this."

He noted that Mr Ho suggested during the interview that an independent commission should be formed to decide the quantum of ministers' salaries, while Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) said in a separate interview with CNA last month that there should be "a stronger component of public consultation" in the salary debate.

Mr Teo pointed out that an independent committee was, in fact, formed in 2012 to study how best to calculate ministerial salaries, and it held extensive consultations with the people of Singapore.

"Minister salaries have been studied and recommended by an independent committee. They are fair-minded people who have the interest of Singapore and Singaporeans at heart," he said.

"They have recommended a framework and a quantum that reflects all these things that we talked about - sacrifice, commitment to service, working for the good of our fellow Singaporeans."

He underlined the importance of Singapore having "a fair, open, honest, transparent framework in place so that we can continue to have able, committed and passionate people with integrity come to serve as our political leaders".

Mr Teo, who turns 64 this year, and has been in politics for 25 years, said his most crucial task today is to help Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to prepare "not just the fourth generation leadership, but also to make sure that we are able to have a fifth generation of leaders coming in having the time to learn, to be tested and to gain the trust and support of Singaporeans".

"These are people in their late 30s and 40s. Many would be at a threshold where they have a good chance of reaching the peak in their chosen careers and professions," he added.

He said his People's Action Party looks for people with integrity, capability and commitment and who are prepared for the sacrifices that politics entails, such as the loss of privacy and family time.

* Parliament: Political office holders received average performance bonus of 4 months' salary in last 5 years
By Yuen Sin, The Straits Times, 11 Sep 2018

Political office holders of all grades received an average annual performance bonus of around four months' salary in the last five years, with the amount given to each individual ranging between three and six months of their pay each year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

He gave these figures in a written parliamentary reply to Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera of the Workers' Party, who had asked about bonus paid to Cabinet ministers in the last five years in terms of the average total of bonus months, and the highest and lowest total of bonus months paid to an individual minister.

The performance bonus is one of the components that make up the benchmark salaries of political office holders.

The other components include their monthly salary, the 13th month non-pensionable annual allowance, the national bonus and an annual variable component as paid to civil servants.

The average performance bonus hit a high in 2015, when political office holders received 4.4 months of bonus, while the lowest bonus in the last five years was last year, when they received 4.1 months of bonus.

Political office holders include parliamentary secretaries, ministers of state and Cabinet ministers.

In his written reply, PM Lee said an independent committee was formed last year to review whether the salary framework established in 2012 remained appropriate and valid against its intended goals, and what adjustments may be useful, and whether there is a need to adjust the salaries should there be a change in overall salary levels based on the proposed framework.

PM Lee then referred to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean's remarks in Parliament in March, when several MPs asked for an update on the review of ministerial salaries by the committee.

Mr Teo had noted the review committee affirmed that the current salary structure for political office holders, including the national bonus framework, remained sound. Therefore, the Government should maintain this structure.

Mr Teo also said that while the benchmark salary for a new minister at entry "MR4" grade had gone up by 9 per cent since 2011, the Government noted the 2017 MR4 benchmark was lower than the 2016 MR4 benchmark. "Hence, the Government has decided to maintain salaries at the current level and watch salary trends further."

Yesterday, PM Lee said this remains the Government's position.

Last month, the issue of ministerial salaries arose after remarks by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong at a residents' forum.

He had said in response to a question that while helping the elderly more is not wrong, cutting ministers' pay to do so would make it harder to attract good people to join the Government in the future.

Elaborating later, he said: "Salaries are not our starting point in looking for ministers. Character, motivation, commitment, selflessness, practical abilities, competence and proven performance are the main attributes we look for."

** Does our Prime Minister get paid up to $4.5 million a year?
Government debunks online ‘falsehoods’ on ministerial salaries
Channel NewsAsia, 16 Sep 2018

The Government has moved to debunk what it described as “falsehoods” about ministerial salaries that have been circulating recently.

The Factually website, which is managed by the Public Communications Division of the Ministry of Communications and Information, said several websites and social media pages have “jumped on the issue” of ministerial salaries in recent weeks.

The website said one falsehood that has appeared online is that the Government is not upfront about how ministerial salaries are calculated.

Debunking this, the website said the pay components are set out in a White Paper, which was tabled in Parliament in 2012. The website also included a link to the White Paper.

The Factually website said an MR4 (entry-level) minister’s annual salary is S$1.1 million, including bonuses. It added: “If the minister doesn’t do well – and if the economy doesn’t do well – he may get well below S$1.1 million.”

Another falsehood, the website said, is that the Prime Minister is being paid S$2.2 million a year as a base salary, excluding bonuses, and that his total salary is S$4.5 million.

The Factually website said this, again, is false. It said: “The Prime Minister’s norm salary is set at two times that of an MR4 Minister. His S$2.2 million annual salary includes bonuses. The Prime Minister does not receive a Performance Bonus as there is no one to assess his performance annually. He does receive the National Bonus.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in a written parliamentary reply, had shared on Sep 10 the performance bonus of Singapore’s political office-holders from 2013 to 2017.

Mr Lee was responding to the Workers’ Party’s Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera who had asked what has been the average, highest and lowest total number of bonus months paid to an individual minister in each of the past five years.

Mr Lee said that the actual performance bonus range from 2013 to 2017 was three to six months, while the actual average performance bonus was between 4.1 and 4.4 months for the same period.

According to the Factually website, a minister's annual salary comprises five components: Monthly pay, 13th-month bonus, performance bonus, annual variable component and National Bonus.

Oral Reply to Parliamentary Question on salary components of Ministers and Prime Minister -1 Oct 2018

Written Reply to Parliamentary Question on National Bonus and Annual Variable Component paid to Cabinet Ministers -1 Oct 2018

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