Why are part-time and full-time MPs paid the same, when their commitment level differs?

Quoted from PAP has experienced team in managing estates: Murali (ST, April 29 2016)

In pointing out why the PAP is the better party for the job, (Mr Murali Pillai) highlighted its volunteer links, partnerships with non-profit organisations (NPOs) and experience in running a town council.

“It is this team approach that is needed to address the needs of Bukit Batok. So if anyone has the notion that a single Member of Parliament (MP) working full time would be able to address their needs, I’m afraid he may have to reassess the situation..That does not accord with my experience, having spent 16 years here under the late MP Ong Chit Chung and other MPs.”

According to Remuneration for Ministers and Members of Parliament (Public Service Division Singapore, May 2 2016):

Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) and Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) do not have a community role as they do not have constituents.. have a reduced legislative role.. cannot vote on government budgets and changes to the Constitution.. annual allowance.. pegged to 15% of the MP’s annual allowance.. $28,900.

This is about $2,408 a month. It will not be sufficient for them to do without a job if they have little savings, and have a family to support. Their smaller roles also mean they can still afford to commit to a daytime job.

According to Remuneration for Ministers and Members of Parliament (Public Service Division Singapore, May 2 2016):

MPs are paid an allowance for the time and expenses incurred in serving in that capacity… serve dual roles – have a community-based role, i.e. looking after the needs of their constituents and raising their concerns in Parliament, and also a legislative role in Parliament where they can influence decisions on Government budgets, and enact or amend legislation, including the Constitution.

An MP’s annual allowance will be 17.5% of the MR4 benchmark (*The MR4 grade is the grade at which senior Permanent Secretaries and entry-level ministers are paid).. $192,500.

This is about $16,042 a month. Is is sufficient for MPs to do without a day job? If they live a simple and cost-effective lifestyle, it is very much possible.

Can part-time MPs balance out their dual work duties, alongside their family life well?

According to Hours of work, overtime and rest days (MOM, May 26 2015):

As an employee, you are not allowed to work more than 12 hours a day (unless for special circumstances).

Does this mean some of our full-time MPs may end up overworking during busier days or weeks, which may not be aligned to the appropriate working hours MOM promotes?

Would the overall well-being of the MPs be compromised as such, since taking on dual jobs may be draining for the MPs physically, mentally, and emotionally?

How would all these effect their effort, commitment, focus, and energy in serving their residents to the best of their capacity?

What about the country’s push for work-life balance and pro-family values? Would the MPs have quality time to spend with their own families back home with the dual job roles?

Should part-time and full-time MPs be paid the same?

As of now, it as not deem as necessary for MPs to work full-time for their role since their remunerations (*money paid for work or a service) are termed as an allowance for the time and expenses incurred in serving in that capacity”, instead of a “salary” like for our ministers in cabinet.

Part-time, or full-time MPs? From PAP or Opposition party? They are all paid the same amount of remuneration, regardless if one puts in more or less time and effort than the other for their constituency. This is an irony – since in real life, part-time and full-time employees would receive 2 different sets of salaries, as they are justly paid according to the time commitment to their occupational roles.

And since the effort of the team as a whole are as essential to the MP’s role, should part of the salary of an MP be remunerated to his volunteer heads too, when an MP is only playing a part-time MP role?

But then again, our ministers in cabinet also play a dual job role e.g. Not only do they have to take care of their own constituency, they are also “responsible for all government policies and the day-to-day administration of the affairs of state“, and they still manage a work-life balance. Thus, some of my above points raised may not be that strong if we do a bigger picture comparison.

Afterthoughts

It is unfair to residents if some constituencies have part-time MPs, while others have full-time MPs. But then again – ministers can also be considered part-time MPs, as the other half of their work time are given to their ministerial duties.

Ultimately – a full-time MP role, alongside the experience, efforts, and effectiveness of the volunteer links, and strong partnerships with the NPOs – would be the most ideal scenario in managing a town council / estate, and seeing to the needs of the residents.

“I will unequivocally say that I will always put my residents’ needs above my own.”

– Mr Murali Pillai

That is a line you are would hear from a full-time MP, oops I mean a part-time MP in this case, who also interestingly happens to be the son of an Operation Coldstore detainee.

So, when the general election arrives again 3.5 years later – do not forget to ask the candidates contesting in your constituency whether they intend to serve you “part-time” or “full-time”, before making your voting decision 😉

Possible suggestions to tackle this issue:

1) Make it mandatory for MPs to serve their residents full time.

2) Increase the current remuneration for MPs from an allowance, to a more competent salary so that MPs would not need turn to a daytime job E.g. Increase the MPs remuneration from the current 17.5% of the MR4 benchmark to 40% of the MR4 benchmark?

3) Ministers to get only half the remuneration for their MP role, as their ministerial salaries are considerably high, and they are only part-time MPs.

Where are the “colours” in plural Singapore?

Does Singapore have a diverse and rich pluralistic landscape? It is a pity we cannot say the same for our political sphere. Why? We always promote Singapore’s diverse racial and religious landscape, but our political arena is a contrast, with mainly shades of “white”. What about the spectrum of other political colours – “red”, “yellow”, “blue”, “orange”, “green”, “violet”?

83 out of 89 seats (93.26%) belongs to the PAP currently. Having brought another “white” back to parliament – would it make a significant difference if we really want to see change, and a more diverse, robust debate in parliament for the next 3.5 years? I’m not too sure. But I’m looking forward to see the various colourful shades again – at GE 2019 🙂

*Featured image was taken during GE2015 – at one of the SDP’s rally

*Click HERE for the link to credit the photographer of the photo if you hope to use his picture, and credit the article back to “Offbeat Perspectives” 🙂

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