Political appointments are not employments
There are so many views and suggestions on how the Ministerial Salary Review shall be conducted. From a human resource point of view, I think it is necessary to revisit the fundamentals. What is a minister or an MP? With that understanding, we may then approach the design of its compensation in a way that is appropriate to the nature of the position. A minister is not a job like any job, but a political appointment. Just like MPs, they are all elected representatives of the people but holding a higher office for a duration of 5 years. Period. It does not have an unending tenure of service. The fact that some of our ministers have been serving for decades is a peculiarity that may not happen in the future. Even if it does, each period of appointment is a new term of service, unrelated. Why are people talking about annual appraisal, salary increment, bonuses, pension etc etc that are part and parcel of an employee of an organization? What do these terms have to do with a political appointment with a short mandate from the people? A Prime Minister may want to appraise the performance of his ministers and reshuffle his cabinet as he deems fit. That is his prerogative. Is he also thinking of the annual appraisal of an employee which ends with a salary increment or performance bonus? Who is the employer and who is paying for the increment? If the employer is the ruling party, and the money is from the ruling party, by all means, do whatever they like. The employer of the politicians is the people, who voted them for a fixed term of 5 years. They will then have to seek the people’s mandate for another 5 year term. The people/employer will then decide if they want to give them another 5 years. It is like a contract for service with fixed terms. With this kind of contract, the remuneration for the ministers and all politicians shall be a fixed sum for the duration of the mandate. The issue of annual increment does not come into play. It is a package deal for 5 years. Bonus and pension too have no place in such political appointments. If there is any reward for politicians who have served for an exceptional long period of time, this may be provided as a form of one time gratuity to the deserving politician on a separate basis. The same could also apply to the head of govt or head of state as exceptions to the rule. It shall not be an across the board provision for every political office holder as if they are employees. The other important issue is who shall decide how much to pay the politicians? Obviously it is not right for them to approve their own pay cheque. A neutral Salary Review Commission can be appointed as what is already done. The approval shall come from the people through a referendum, something similar to shareholders approving the remunerations of the Board of Directors in an AGM. At most, this may be held once every 5 years or over a longer period if the economic condition or inflation has not deflated the value to of the compensation package to make it meaningless or unattractive. No political party must get away with the impression that once they are elected, the Treasury is their piggy bank and they can create as many appointments as they like to reward their members. Politicians going into politics, to be elected by the people are there to serve the people. They do not join politics as an employment with a career path and a life long pay package. If the current thinking is to go by, the govt will have to set up a human resource ministry to administer performance appraisal on the politicians, including the Prime Minister. Staff performance will become another job specifications for the Prime Minister and Ministers, and of course a salary scale, including a scale for the MPs, and all the terms of conditions of employment. After so many years of one party rule, the people have been distracted to think that ministerial appointments and political appointments are jobs, a career with career path and salary scale. Every year the incumbents can look forward to promotions, career advancement, annual increments and bonuses and pensions. Grandfather’s company? If the political climate is changed and after every election there is a change of govt, all the suggestions for performance appraisal, salaries, bonuses etc etc will become obsolete, irrelevant even if provided for. Please don’t get confuse. A politician and political appointment is not a job. Let the people decide how much they should be remunerated as a package for a fixed term of appointment. Nothing more, nothing less. If they want more, seek another mandate from the people and approval from the people. The current govt has been entrenched for too long to forget that they are not employees of the state like the civil servants. There is no contract of service and no terms of employment. KPIs are being booted by everyone as if it is the main factor to determine how much must a politician be rewarded. It is superfluous actually. The KPI, if useful, is to let the people judge the performance of the politician and whether to re elect him in the next election. It must not be an instrument to reward him with more bonuses or pay increases. The performance of a politician is not for the PM to tell but the people to decide. I hope the Review Committee will approach its task from the point of a 5 year mandate and not a life long employment. They must erase the current thinking that the package comes with all the perks and terms of an employee.