SINGAPORE: The government has revealed that it decided to defer the scheduled ministerial pay review, originally set for 2023, due to “other pressing issues” such as global geopolitical uncertainties and economic challenges.

A year ago, in January 2023, the Minister-in-charge of the Public Service, Chan Chun Sing, signalled that the pay review would take place in 2023, but the year went by with no sign of salary adjustments.

Responding to parliamentary questions from Members of Parliament (MPs) Hazel Poa of the Progress Singapore Party and Alex Yam from the People’s Action Party (PAP-Marsiling-Yew Tee) on why the review did not take place last year, Mr Chan said on Tuesday (9 Jan):

“In 2023, the global geopolitical situation has become more uncertain, with conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine, and continuing heightened geopolitical contestation. On the economic front, significant uncertainties and downside risks in the global economy remain, impacting our local economy and our wage and inflation outlooks.

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“Hence, we decided to focus on dealing with these key challenges at hand and defer the review of political salaries for now.”

Minister Chan assured the government would revisit the political salaries framework and benchmark “in due course” to ensure its relevance and alignment with current conditions.

In 2012, a White Paper on Salaries for a Capable and Committed Government recommended the appointment of an independent committee every five years to review the salary framework for political appointment holders.

The ensuing review in 2012 resulted in significant pay cuts for top officials in 2012, including a 51% reduction in the president’s pay and a 36% reduction in the prime minister’s pay.

The pay cuts, also imposed upon other ministers and the Speaker of Parliament, came after the watershed 2011 general election, which saw the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) lose a Group Representation Constituency (GRC) to the opposition for the first time.

In 2018, a subsequent committee found that the existing salary framework remained “relevant and sound.”

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The committee suggested yearly political salary adjustments in alignment with annual benchmark movements to stay abreast of market developments. However, the government decided against making changes at that time due to economic transition.

Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said in 2018 that the issue would be revisited after five years or when deemed necessary.

The current benchmark for an entry-level minister is based on the median income of the top 1,000 Singapore citizen earners, with a 40% “discount” reflecting the “ethos of political service.”

Salaries for other political office holders are determined based on ratios to the pay of an entry-level minister, accounting for their distinct roles and responsibilities.

As of 2023, the benchmark level for a minister’s monthly salary stands at S$55,000, translating to an annual salary of S$1.1 million. The salary framework also includes adjustments in response to market conditions, with the last significant recommendations made in 2018.

Will the next ministerial pay review take place in 2024?