Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pensions: Tell it exactly like it is

THE reply by the Prime Minister's Office ('PMO on pensions for political office and MPs') last Saturday - which appeared together with a related report ('Pension about a tenth of minister's pay') - was in response to cyberspace speculation that ministers receive million-dollar pensions.

The Government should have been more transparent in its reply by specifically rebutting the speculation.
Statements such as '10 per cent of his annual salary'; 'pensionable component has been frozen since 1994'; and 'a minister qualifies for the maximum pension of two-thirds of this pensionable component only after having served as an office-holder for 18 years', tend to confuse ordinary Singaporeans.
All the Government needed to do was to quantify its clarification into dollars and state how much Mr George Yeo, Mrs Lim Hwee Hua and Mr Zainul Abidin Rasheed will receive each month as pension.
The Government should also have stated whether all ministers aged 55 and older - and who have the minimum eight years of service - are being paid pension in addition to their salaries and, if so, how much.
In other words, the PMO's reply should have explained pensions for public office-holders and MPs in absolute dollar terms.
Now that Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mr Goh Chok Tong are leaving the Cabinet, the pension amounts they will receive could also be made known to the public.
If the Government does not respond in a clear manner, the high figures speculated online will be taken as true by many people, casting further doubts and raising more questions on the subject.
Krishnan Harihara Kasthuri Rangan