Both WP and PAP politicians set to ask PM Lee about salaries and bonuses paid to ministers today

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Politicians from both the Workers’ Party and the ruling People’s Action Party have filed questions on the salaries and bonuses that are paid to Singaporeans addressed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for the next Parliamentary sitting that will be held today at 12.30pm.

The questions come after WP Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leon Perera asked PM Lee the following question during the last Parliamentary session on 10 Sept:

“To ask the Prime Minister in each of the past five years, what has been the bonus paid to Cabinet Ministers in terms of (i) the average total number of bonus months (ii) the highest total number of bonus months paid to an individual Minister and (iii) the lowest total number of bonus months paid to an individual Minister.”

Choosing to answer the question via a written reply, PM Lee revealed that political office-holders received an average performance bonus of 4.1 months in 2017. He shared these figures in his response:

The performance bonus is awarded by the Prime Minister to political office-holders based on their contributions to their immediate portfolios and the Government as a whole. The performance bonus differs from minister to minister depending on their contributions throughout the year.

The performance bonus, however, is only a part of the bonus package political office-holders receive each year.

PM Lee actually acknowledged that the bonus framework for political office-holders involves four components but did not reveal the total average bonus that was paid out to political office-holders under the three other components.

Besides monthly pay and the performance bonus, political office-holders also receive a 13th month non-pensionable annual allowance, an annual variable component (AVC) as paid to civil servants and a National Bonus linked to Singapore’s economic growth

It is unclear why PM Lee did not include the 13th month bonus, AVC bonus and National Bonus and provide Perera with the total average months bonus, highest months bonus paid to an individual minister and lowest months bonus paid to an individual minister.

It is also interesting to note that Perera had asked for the bonus figures that were awarded to ministers. It is curious that PM Lee chose to use the term “political office-holders” since political office-holders also refers to elected politicians who are not yet full ministers.

PM Lee’s response sparked a backlash among Singaporeans who accused the PM of skirting the question and asked the Government to be transparent about how much bonuses ministers are paid.

Today, Perera is set to ask PM Lee to clarify on what the National Bonus and the AVC that were paid to Cabinet Ministers in the last five years:

“To ask the Prime Minister in each year from 2013 to 2017 (a) what has been the actual National Bonus (in months) paid to Cabinet Ministers; and (b) what has been the actual Annual Variable Component (in months) paid to Cabinet Ministers.”

Interestingly, an MP from PM Lee’s own party has filed questions on ministerial pay to be posed to the head of government. Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP Alex Yam is set to ask his party chief:

“To ask the Prime Minister whether he can (i) list all the components of the salaries of the Ministers and Prime Minister (ii) state the amounts, in months of salary, paid for each component for each year from 2013 to 2017 and (iii) confirm that these components are fully included in the Ministerial salary benchmark established in the White Paper on “Salaries for a Capable and Committed Government” that was debated in Parliament in January 2012 and are not payments over and above the salary benchmark.”

At a glance, it appears as though Yam’s question is posed to the PM to help clarify that salaries and bonuses are within the set benchmark, in an effort to quell the public backlash over the lack of transparency over the ministerial pay package.

4 or almost 12 months bonus? PM Lee artfully deflects question on total bonus ministers received from 2013-2017