Debate on ministries' budgets

Committee suggests adjusting ministers' targets

To get their National Bonus, political office-holders have to help the Government hit targets on four socio-economic indicators. Now, the committee reviewing ministerial salaries has recommended adjusting the target levels of two of them.

They are the unemployment rate and real gross domestic product growth rate - to take into account restructuring efforts in the labour market and economic growth in the medium term, said the nine-member committee headed by veteran accountant Gerard Ee.

But the Government did not adopt these recommendations, along with the committee's suggestion to raise ministerial pay.

A change in the unemployment rate indicator would make the target harder to hit. The committee proposed tightening the target range from the current range of 4 per cent to below 4.5 per cent, to 3.25 per cent to below 3.75 per cent.

Mr Ee said it would make it "tougher" for the ministers to meet the target, but added: "We wanted to set a target so that the focus will continue to be on employment."

He said unemployment rates were a way to measure if the benefits of GDP growth had been spread out among Singaporeans.

But the suggested tweak to the real GDP growth rate indicator would have made it easier for the Government to meet targets.

The committee suggested bringing down the real GDP growth rate target range from the 3 per cent to below 5 per cent, to 2.5 per cent to below 4.5 per cent.

Mr Ee said this was to make the range "more realistic", adding that this was based on the forecast for the next decade. He also noted that Singapore is a mature economy.

The other two indicators are the real median income growth rate and real growth rate of the lowest 20th percentile income for Singapore citizens.

The four indicators each accounts for 25 per cent of the bonus, and the amount paid out ranges from zero to six months, depending on how well the Government has met the targets set. If the targets are not met, no bonus is paid.

Besides the existing four indicators, the committee had also considered adding two more: One relating to professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), and one relating to the satisfaction of Singaporeans with their life.

Explaining why it did not recommend these in the end, the committee said "the interests of PMETs are already accounted for by the current set of indicators", such as median income growth.

As for the other indicator on satisfaction, it "would need to be robust, quantifiable and intuitive to accurately encapsulate this intangible and multi-faceted concept, and we have not been able to identify a satisfactory indicator", the committee said.

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2018, with the headline 'Committee suggests adjusting ministers' targets'. Print Edition | Subscribe