As I ponder politics in Singapore, one of the questions I inevitably ask myself is “Why are our elected MPs not serving the people in a full time capacity?
I know that this was the subject of a news article by Channel News Asia, but the conclusion was less than satisfactory, in my humble opinion. An elected MP is paid a monthly allowance of S$11,917, and allowances for a “Legislative Assistant” and “Secretarial Assistant”, at S$1,000 and S$350 respectively, are also available and are paid directly to the helpers. (This was before the recent ministerial pay hike)
In today’s parliament, if I am not wrong, only opposition MP Chiam See Tong is a full time MP. All the rest of elected WP and PAP MPs (save for Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, Mayors, etc) hold on to their day jobs or directorships.
While I applaud MPs for their strength, energy and vitality in taking on day jobs as well as responsibilities of an MP in the evenings, I personally feel that this is not an optimum arrangement. MPs are elected, not only to give the people they represent, a share of voice in Parliament, but also to ensure that the people they represent and serve are well taken care of.
I am extremely skeptical how this important responsibility can be achieved when an MP holds two or more jobs. Take myself for example. I hold a job as a Regional IT Manager in a Pharmaceutical company. My job requires me to take responsibility for the region, and to chart the IT direction for the company. By the time evening comes, I’m often dead tired. I also want to spend some time with my family, etc, etc… Assuming an MP holds a managerial position (Like Ms Jessica Tan, a GM in Microsoft Singapore) by the end of the day, wouldn’t she be really brain tired? Where got the presence of mind to give to meet the people sessions? I mean, she could physically be there, but mentally she might have switched off already. By the time she meets her residents, her mind would have already been working for more than 9 hours. She is giving the best slots (9am to 6pm) of her mind to Microsoft, instead of her residents. I am however ok if the elected MP has director or chairmanship responsibilities. Those are often not too time demanding.
It is my personal opinion that to better serve the new generation of electorate, elected MPs MUST be a full time job. Heres my view on compensation. De-couple Elected MP and Ministers salaries from salaries for Civil Service. Work out a different pay scale. Raise the elected MP allowances to $20k. Reduce Cabinet Ministers pay (by some formula decided by a council of Elders).
At the end of the day, it is the electorate that gets the benefit of a full time MP who will give more time to listen to the issues of his/her residents and it would be the top priority of the elected MP to solve those problems, instead of solving issues for their day time employers.