I must confess that I was skeptical that the Committee to Review Ministerial Salaries would do a fair and good job.
But, after reading their report released today, I am pleasantly surprised to see a good amount of thinking, analysis, and consideration of feedback has been taken on board.
I think the key points of being transparent about the salaries and the removal of pensions is the biggest change. Arguments about the quantum of salary will always be there as will people who disagree no matter that number is proposed. What I like about how the committee framed their thinking centered on:
When determining Ministerial Salaries, we kept these principles in mind:
1) Salaries must be competitive so that people of the right calibre are not deterred from stepping forward to lead the country;
2) The ethos of political service entails making sacrifices and hence there should be a discount in the pay formula; and
3) There should be a “clean wage” with no hidden perks.
One of the hallmarks of Singapore is that the political and administrative service are by and large corruption free. Having said that, the cynics amongst us, including me, have contended that it was achieved by the excessive salaries paid to the political leadership.
Let’s see if this reality adjustment of the political salaries will have any impact on the perceived corruption free status. I suspect that there will not be any change in that. Singapore’s ethos has been built on getting things done for the benefit of as large a group of people as possible leaving no one behind.
So, all in, I am happy with the report. I accept the report. I hope my fellow citizens will accept it as well – but only after you’ve read the report and not an executive summary or someone else’s opinion piece for pundits are a dime-a-dozen.
2012 is beginning to look like a really nice new year already!
UPDATE – January 5 2011:
I think that there has not been enough analysis of the salary inflation of the ministers over the years. The last salary jump, and boy was that a big jump (of almost 60% in one go – see this NYT article), means that the proposed 20-50% reduction is still not going to make it anything like what it was BEFORE 2007. Sneaky!
The report does not seem to have taken into consideration the meteoric rise of the salary over the years. What the report is focussed on is on what wage would best attract people into politics in Singapore given our constraints. Perhaps in real 2012 dollars, the quantum to be derived from the median of salaries of the top 1000 Singapore citizens wage-earners (ie, 60% of the average of the sum of the 500th and 501th taxpayer), might be a fair amount.
Let the people decide. This is, I believe, still a functioning democracy.