"Singapore practises a transparent system where salaries are fully accounted for through a clean wage set at a competitive level with no hidden perks and privileges," so reads para 15 of the report of the Committee to Review Ministerial Salaries (CRMS). If you have not read the report in detail, you would have missed out on some of the "hidden perks and privileges".
Many an apologetic has waxed lyrical about the great financial sacrifice made by those who signed up for political office, the most nauseating version being Grace Fu's not so subtle threat about "tilting the balance." But unknown to most of us, and the whole wide world watching the money game in play, the PM seems to have an ace up his sleeve that runs counter current to all the talk about the pain of pay cuts. This get-out-of-jail free card (as if ministerhood was indentured servitude) would make sure the appointee can have his cake and eat it too. Specifically, the PM is empowered to offer a higher salary outside the official Ministerial range, and damn be whatever numbers Gerard Ee's committee members come up with.
The name that comes to mind immediately is Ng Eng Hen, who once famously said, “You’re getting a bargain for the ministers you get… I worked half as much and earn(ed) five times more when I was in the private sector.” (Channelnewsasia, 9 September 2003).
Interestingly, an unpublished paper presented to the American Accounting Association in August by Richard Cazier and John Mcinnis discovered that the premium pay expected of external hires is negatively correlated with their actual performance. This may be because superstars have an inflated opinion of their own capabilities. They assume all the credit for the success of their previous firm, when in fact the contribution of others were involved. ("The Trouble With Superheroes", Schumpeter, The Economist, October 1st 2011)
Now unless Gerard Ee is emboldened to lie in black and white, we have his word, Scout's honour, that the hitherto lesser known make-up pay system, which was introduced in Parliament in 1989, has not been used thus far. But if Ng, or similar super salaried decides to bitch like Grace Fu, he could easily get his 5 times ministerial salary in a jiffy, complete with creative contrivances of miscellaneous allowances and all.
The CRMS has chosen to retain this joker card, albeit the recommended provision is good for one term only, compared to the prescribed two terms. The big $64,000 question is why this loop hole is not plugged?