Singapore Budget 2015: Ministerial salaries have not risen in past three years

SINGAPORE - Political salaries have not gone up in the last three years even as the benchmark they are linked to has risen by around 3 per cent per year over the period, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told Parliament on Tuesday.

The House had, in 2012, endorsed recommendations from an independent committee to link ministerial salaries to the median income of the top 1,000 earners who are Singaporean citizens, with a 40 per cent discount to reflect the ethos of political service.

Since then, this benchmark has risen in two out of three years, and dropped slightly in one year. Overall, it rose 3 per cent per year, said Mr Teo.

"Because the changes in the benchmark have been moderate, we have not adjusted political salaries in these past three years," he said.

Based on the latest figures, the benchmark salary for a minister at "MR4" grade, inclusive of bonuses, should be $1.2 million per year, but the Government has kept it at $1.1 million - the 2011 level, he added.

An entry-level minister at the MR4 grade will receive an annual salary of $935,000, the starting point of the MR4 grade range.

The Prime Minister earns $2.2 million and the President earns $1.54 million.

In 2012, Parliament also endorsed doing away with pensions for politicians.

Mr Teo was speaking during the debate over the budget for the Prime Minister's Office. MP Edwin Tong (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) had asked whether it was timely to review the framework by which political salaries are determined.

Since 2011, "the formula has remained stable and has worked well," said Mr Teo.

"The Committee (to Review Ministerial Salaries) recommended that the salary framework be reviewed every five years. Given that things have been stable, we believe the framework remains valid, and we can continue to adjust salaries within this framework should there be a change in overall salary levels in coming years."

Mr Teo also emphasised that in the 2012 debate, the opposition Workers' Party (WP) agreed with the three key principles the Committee used to derive political salaries. They are:

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

- that the ethos of political service entails making sacrifices and hence there should be a discount in the pay formula

- that there should be a "clean wage" with no hidden perks

During the 2012 parliamentary debate, the WP had proposed an alternative formula of benchmarking MPs' salaries to the starting pay of the "Superscale" grade in the civil service, and to make ministers' salaries a multiple of MPs' allowance.

This would be about $55,000 a month for ministers, an amount Mr Teo noted on Tuesday was at the same level as the Committee's recommendations.