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Saturday, 28 January 2012

Ministers' Pay Debate - Discerning The Forest From The Trees.

If you have missed last week's 3 days of Parliamentary Debate on the Ministers' Pay, you have missed witnessing an important juncture of our Parliamentary democracy.  The debate was engaging and robust from Members of Parliament from both the Ruling Party and the Workers' Party.  I saw the beginning and evolving momentum of a 2-Party system in the Parliament - an anathema to some of the "Old Guards" in the Ruling Party. In fact some members of the Ruling Party tried to hammer out a bi-partisan consensus on the motion which to the credit of the Workers' Party refused to come on board. I see the fundamental and logical arguments of the Workers' Party based on the following sequence of the 3 principles:

1) Political Office is a calling, a privilege - who better to  represent this calling than Mr Chen Show Mao himself who gave up a lucrative legal job to become an MP.  An MP is elected by the people first before he can become a Minister.  And the Minister is not selected from the private sector by the Prime Minister.

2) Competitive Salary - As the Minister has first to be an MP, logically his pay should be bench-marked against an MP's allowance which the WP calculated to be $11,000 pm (the norm in the senior level civil service pay) From here the WP extrapolated the entry-level Minister's pay to be 5 times($55,000 pm) and the PM's 9 times ($99,000 pm)

3) Clean Wage - The WP stipulated that the bonus payments for Ministers should not be more than 5 months (the Review Committee recommended 13.5 months) as an average worker gets about 3 to 4 months bonus in a very good year.

The WP stated that the Cabinet is a Constitutional extension of the Parliament and thereby under the Legislative control of the Parliament.

Well, this will not be the last time we hear of Ministers' pay.  But at least I get educated on the matter - who say competitive ideas/viewpoints have no merit?

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