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."
Mr Teo noted that the WP had, during the debate on ministerial pay in 2012, endorsed the three key principles on which the salary framework is based.
First, salaries must be competitive so that people of the right calibre are not deterred from stepping forward to lead the country.
A WP MINISTER WOULD GET THE SAME
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.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER TEO CHEE HEAN
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".