Ministers support proposals to cut their financial perks

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

CALLS to cut ministers’ salaries and scale back their financial perks have received the support of several Cabinet members who are in favour of another round of cutbacks.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng (picture) is the fourth federal minister to welcome the suggestion after Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and Rural Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Haron gave their approval.

Lim, who has been tasked to manage the country’s debt pile of over RM1 trillion, said he welcomed any cost-saving measure that could help pare down the national debt.

“However, this matter involves ministers and their ministries, and I believe any implementation should be decided by the Cabinet,” he told reporters after attending the closing ceremony of the Putrajaya Lift Festival 2019 in Putrajaya yesterday.

Syed Saddiq earlier proposed to cut the allowances of politicians and ministers in response to controversy over a Cabinet decision to cut the critical services incentive payment for new doctors, nurses, engineers and other professionals joining the civil service.

The move is one of many efforts initiated by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government to reduce civil service salaries which constitute nearly a third of government expenditure. The PH ministers had already taken a 10% pay cut when they took office last year.

The Public Service Department in a statement last Thursday defended the move by saying that the critical services allowance was never meant to be permanent following its introduction in 1992 to attract talents in 33 sectors.

The department said the continuation of the allowance to new hires would cost the government RM1.24 billion by 2022 from RM969.52 million currently, while adding that it has no plans to remove the allowance for those already receiving it.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has since delayed the allowance cuts and said it will be discussed in the next Cabinet meeting.

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad, meanwhile, is of the opinion that both ministers and MPs have seen many financial benefits cancelled in recent years. “The 10% salary cut at the start of the term itself was about RM10,000 on average per minister.

“As MPs, allowances for attendance and road tax have also been reduced and omitted. Additionally, 30% of our salaries go to the party (Parti Amanah Negara) for its sustenance and wellbeing,” Khalid explained. “If you ask me, I think further cuts are not necessary,” he added.

Separately, Lim urged small businesses to equip themselves with knowledge on digitalisation and financial literacy to boost their marketability overseas.

Contribution from the digital economy to GDP is expected to hit 21% by 2022 from the current 18%. This is in line with the government’s effort to offer cheaper high-speed Internet services which have seen the number of users increasing to 1.2 million in 2018 from 155,000 in 2017.