SM Teo Chee Hean on the ‘Make-Up Pay’ Mechanism for Political Appointment Holders

SM Teo Chee Hean | 6 July 2021

Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean’s Oral Reply to Parliamentary and Supplementary Questions on the ‘Make-Up Pay’ Mechanism for Political Appointment Holders


Ms He Ting Ru: To ask the Prime Minister (a) since the introduction of the ‘make-up pay’ mechanism for political appointment holders in 1989, whether this mechanism has been used to increase the salary for any political appointment holders to make up the difference between their last drawn salary and the salary of their political office; (b) if yes, who has it been applied to; (c) what has been the increase in the quantum of the make-up pay; and (d) what is the time period and duration it is effected for. 

SM Teo Chee Hean:  Mr Speaker, Sir, on behalf of the Prime Minister. 

When we consider potential candidates to take up political office, the first quality that we look for is a sense of public service – those who have their heart in the right place and want to contribute to the betterment of Singapore and Singaporeans. This should always be the basic prerequisite for any political candidate. 

However, beyond a passion for public service, our team of political appointment holders need to have the right mix of backgrounds, skills, and organisational and leadership capabilities. In particular, we need some ministers, ministers of state and parliamentary secretaries with private sector experience. 

From the private sector, we want to be able to bring in not only people who are already well advanced in their careers and financially secure, but also younger ones whose careers are just taking off and are approaching or in their peak earning years, and who may have made financial commitments. They may take a few years to establish themselves before they can be considered for more senior political appointments. The “make-up pay” mechanism makes it easier for such candidates to consider taking up political office, and eases the financial disruption as they make the transition. Notwithstanding the “make-up pay”, such candidates know and accept that even if they eventually prove themselves in political office, they will not earn as much as if they had remained in their private sector careers.  

Since 1989 when the scheme was first introduced, we have brought in several candidates into the government without using the “make-up pay”, with a number of them accepting a substantial income loss. The scheme has been used once so far, in that case for a transition period of two years.

No political appointment holder is currently on this scheme. 

Supplementary Questions and Reply

Ms He: Thank you, Sir. I would like to ask the Minister how long was this ‘make-up pay’ scheme actually applied for given that it was used once before. Also, how many candidates or potential candidates have declined to run on the government's ticket because they said that the pay was not enough. Thank you. 

SM Teo:  I think I already answered that question. We have had one person and that person was on the scheme for two years. 

When a person is being considered for candidacy and also potentially for political office, there are no guarantees as each of us in this chamber knows, and there are the political ups and downs. Pay is not usually one of the things that they will tell you upfront, but it surely is one of the considerations for a person who has got commitments, a young family and a promising career ahead of him, which he is quite sure of. To come in, to take the vagaries of politics and to give that up is a big sacrifice. So we want to reduce that and help him in the transition. 

But as I said, we have individuals who are prepared to come in and give it up, and we have individuals who are prepared to come in and accept that they will take a lower salary in their appointment in political office, even though they have had a two-year transition period to help them over the commitments that they have.