Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Salaries For Fat Cats

In April 2007 and January this year, the salaries of top civil servants and ministers were revised upwards again "to keep pace with soaring private sector salaries". But, in the light of economic doldrums island wide, the Public Service Division apparently had to bite the bullet and announced that the 2009 salary revision for this group has now been deferred (not cancelled). The original game plan was that the already over paid top civil servants and ministers were supposed to get another pay rise in January next year. It was to be the third adjustment to bring public sector pay to 88 per cent of the private sector benchmark, a move announced in April 2007.

Ministers and top civil servants will now get a pay cut of up to 19 per cent next year. The Civil Service is also reducing the year-end bonus payment for this year.

The guiding benchmark, we are told, is set at two-thirds of the median pay of the top eight earners in each of the six sectors: multinational corporations, lawyers, bankers, accountants, local manufacturers and engineers. What piques one's curiosity is that, despite endemic bankruptcies, and wide scale retrenchments in private corporations, the government released data show that all indexed professions in the private sector, excepting accountants (probably the lot working for Lehman Brothers and the like), are earning 11 to 35 per cent more in 2008 than in 2007.

Commenting on the pay cut, Mr Teo Chee Hean, Minister in charge of the Civil Service, said: "Public sector salaries follow the market up and down. The mechanism we introduced last year to link a significant proportion of the salary of senior civil servants to the performance of the economy is working as intended. This mechanism allows salaries to respond more rapidly to market conditions." Maybe the minister has another set of figures for his speech.

The facts on hand seem to suggest that the formula used to calculate the ministrial paycheck is not as straight forward as claimed. Like the formula used to calculate the tariff rate for electricity, the mathematics involved will probably take several man-years to explain.

The Public Service Division also took pains to highlight that the Prime Minister has and will continue to donate all increases in his own salary after the April 2007 revisions, to good causes for five years. Note "good causes" and not "charitable organisations."