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BUDGET DEBATE

Public service wages must be realistic and fair, says DPM Teo

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Singapore must continue to keep wages in the public service realistic, and strike the right balance between recognising the ethos of political service and providing a fair salary to ensure a flow of able and committed leaders into the government.

Singapore

SINGAPORE must continue to keep wages in the public service realistic, and strike the right balance between recognising the ethos of political service and providing a fair salary to ensure a flow of able and committed leaders into the government.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, who is also the Minister in charge of Civil Service, made the point in his response to MP Edwin Tong, who had asked in Parliament for a review of the political salary framework on Tuesday.

The current formula has remained stable and worked well for Singapore, noted DPM Teo, who added that the political salary framework would 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 the coming years."

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In 2011, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had appointed an independent committee to review the basis and level of salaries for the President, the Prime Minister, political appointment holders and Members of Parliament, to ensure honest and competent government.

Endorsed by the House in 2012, the committee's report

  • set out a new benchmark based on the median income of the top 1,000 earners who are Singapore citizens, with a 40 per cent discount to reflect the ethos of political service;
  • drew up a new salary framework and National Bonus linked to the socio-economic progress of average and lower-income Singaporeans, and not just gross domestic growth alone; and
  • removed the pension scheme for politicians.

At the time of the debate, the Workers' Party and the Singapore People's Party had suggested alternative formulae, which were around the same salary level the committee recommended, said Mr Teo. He pointed out that the government has not adjusted political salaries in the past three years, as changes in the benchmark have been moderate - a rise of about 3 per cent annually over the three years the formula has been in operation. "The 2014 MR4 benchmark should be S$1.2 million, but we have kept the MR4 norm annual salary unchanged at S$1.1 million."

On issues of hiring and progression in the public service, MP Inderjit Singh told the House that the government needed to look at other factors apart from academic performance, something that Mr Teo agreed with. Character, motivation, commitment to public service, initiative and interpersonal skills are also used to assess suitability for civil service jobs, Mr Teo noted.

Fielding a question for an update from MP Heng Chee How on the study announced last October for a single career scheme for Management Executive Officers and Management Support Officers, Mr Teo replied that it has been completed. "The government will extend the current Management Executive Scheme to have a single scheme from August 2015," he said.

To maintain public trust and confidence, the government will continue to fight corruption and wrongdoing, added Mr Teo.

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