Monday is a big battle day in Parliament. 25 MPs will take to the floor to discuss the recommendations of the Ministerial Salary Review Committee headed by Gerard Ee.
The agenda has been set. They will be discussing about the recommendations for future salary for primarily political appointment holders. The salary for MPs is more or less accepted as reasonable and may at most received a cursory mention.
How meaningful and relevant will the discussion be will be affected by the presumptions that the MPs have in their mindset. Many are still clinging to the notion that political office is an employment and must come along with the whole gist of annual increments, bonuses, performance evaluation, etc as normal. There is also the assumption that political appointment is a great sacrifice, tangible and intangible, with monetary loss as the main factor. And the compensation package is always a discount from what the politicians are getting if they were to remain in the private sector.
The dichotomy between a political appointment and employment need no further discussion. They are completely two different animals. Not many countries can politicians take for granted that they will be elected elections after elections and can see it as a job with a big amount of certainty. Thus career development, and annual increment and bonuses become very important. When being elected is no longer a guarantee, all these factors may become superfluous and may not even be discussed, and they will turn to a different compensation package that is more relevant towards the uncertainties of political office.
The great sacrifice of monetary loss is only meaningful maybe to a handful of professionals. Maybe 80-90% of the politicians will not see any sacrifice at all. Many could be laughing all the way to the bank with their new political appointments with income they cannot even dream off in their whole life. So far there is no serious attempt to provide the statistics to show how many really took a pay cut and how many were quietly congratulating themselves with the windfall from entering politics.
And the subsidy or getting a discount from their peers in the private sector is another bull or myth that has been perpetuated for too long and will continue to be if no one stands up to challenge this myth. Where on earth can anyone earn $5m or $10m to shake hands with strangers, posed for photographs and looking good and wearing a perpetual smile? The latter is probably the most stressful of all the job requirements. Where on earth would one be paid a million bucks just to be a time keeper in Parliament which probably sits for less than 30 days in a year? There are many very well endowed positions that are paid handsomely that would not be tolerated in the private sector without the shareholders screaming foul.
Unless these assumptions are challenged, they will be taken for granted as truth and real, and will form the basis for the recommendation on how much the politicians shall be paid. And when that happens, the final results will be just as misleading and hazy as before.
While the agenda has been set to discuss about the future package, would the inconvenient truth of what and how much the political appointees really were paid under the existing package see the light?