Thursday 16 August 2018

Remember that time ministers actually got a pay cut? It will probably never happen again

Thanks to recent comments by a former Prime Minister who shall remain unnamed, ministers' pay has been a hot topic for two weeks now with longer legs than I expected.

But what I find missing in the discussion is any mention that ministers did get a pay cut once.

Remember? It was just six years ago.

Here's a reminder:

It was big news.

After decades of people bitching that our ministers are paid way too much (like they're doing now... again), the Government actually caved to public pressure and agreed to cut the ministers' salaries.

And this was in 2012, one year after the 2011 General Election and three years before the 2015 General Election. So you can't even call it a PAP election ploy.

I thought people would give the Government some credit for that, but the reaction to the ministerial pay cut was a big meh.

As in "So? They're still paid too much."

As The New Paper reported:
Don’t cut, they whack.

Slash the pay of political appointment holders and they still let fly.

Twitterverse was abuzz with the hashtag #ministerpaycut shortly after noon yesterday.

“Too little.”

“Not enough.”

These were the words used by some to describe the pay cuts for political appointment holders – ranging from 15-53 per cent – recommended by the eight-man committee set up by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last May to review political salaries.

Some critics pointed out that despite a 36 per cent pay cut, PM Lee will still earn more than the leaders of Hong Kong, Australia and the US combined.

Under the committee’s recommendations, PM Lee would receive an annual salary of $2.2 million.

The combined salaries of the leaders of Hong Kong, Australia and the US is close to $1.9 million.

The Speaker of Parliament, a post now held by Punggol East SMC Member of Parliament Michael Palmer, saw the deepest cut, of 53 per cent, while the Prime Minister and other Cabinet ministers had cuts of 31 per cent to 39 per cent. PM Lee is likely to face a pay cut of 36 per cent from his 2010 pay of $3.07m.

PM Lee said in a letter addressed to Mr Ee that the Government intends to accept the committee’s recommendations.

Reactions came thick and fast. Will the top talent still step up to serve with the pay cut? Why not cut more?

It's a no-win situation.

What’s the point then?

And now the whole ministerial pay thing has blown up again and no one has even mentioned the 2012 pay cut.

If I were the Government, I would just let the issue blow over (and it will) because as history has shown, giving in to a pay cut won't appease anyone. The haters are still gonna hate.

Been there, done that.

The ministers already gave themselves a pay cut once and no one appreciated it. Now that they've learnt their lesson, I doubt they'll ever do it again.

At least they get to keep their money.

It has been suggested that the ministerial pay cut was a consequence of PAP's poor showing in the 2011 General Election (where PAP lost a GRC for the first time).

This makes sense. Stung by the swing against the PAP, the ruling party sought to win back voters and the pay cut was its way of telling the electorate: "We hear what you're saying. We can change."

The PAP would do much better in the next election in 2015, but I don't think anyone thinks the pay cut was a factor.