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    Should make-up pay for ministers stay?

    Kerry Consulting

    Retain policy but cut length to one term in office, panel suggests.

    The prime minister should have the leeway to offer higher pay to top ministerial candidates from the private sector, the committee in charge of reviewing ministers’ pay said last week.

    Its recommendations included one to retain a little-known policy called “make-up pay”. It lets the prime minister pay a potential up to 90 per cent of the difference between his new pay as a political appointment holder and his pay in the private sector – set at the average of his annual pay packet in the last three years.

    The committee recommended one change. It called for the length of make-up pay to be cut from two terms in office to one term – around five years. After that, it said, the minister should be paid according to his pay grade.

    The policy was introduced in 1989 but has never been used, according to the committee’s report.

    Human resource experts and analysts were divided on whether make-up pay should be retained  in its current form. Some told The Straits Times that make-up pay is a practical way of easing top earners’ transition into politics, especially if they have existing financial commitments and must take a large pay cut.

    “Ministerial candidates are human too,” said Mr. Declan O’Sullivan, managing director of executive recruitment firm Kerry Consulting.

    Provisions such as make-up pay help ensure that Singapore attracts the best to run the country, he said.

    “It would be a lot easier and more politically expedient to abandon these provisions, but at what cost to the nation’s development?” he added.

    He is in favour of the committee’s proposal to limit make-up pay to about five years, which is a “fair period” for the new minister to adjust his commitments.

    Other experts said having a flexible wage system for top executives is also in line with private sector practice.