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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pay rise storm rages on unabated

There are two camps in the debate over the pay hike for Selangor state assemblypersons - certain quarters are unable to accept the whopping leap of up to 373 percent, while others argue that this could help combat graft.

Despite the hefty hike, from RM6,000 to RM11,250 per month, it can be costly for a state assemblyperson to service his or her constitutents.

NONEThe job scope of state assemblypersons, particularly in the Malaysian context, is not just about political articulation, but also attending funerals or wedding ceremonies, and being invited to open activities of various associations in their constituencies - all of which require cash contributions.
Official data shows that the basic salary and allowances for an assemblyperson before the adjustment came up to a total of RM8,000.
The present pay hike does not include the allowances.

Parts of the expenses such as hiring aides and renting service centre are funded by the state government. The allocation breakdown before adjustment is shown below:
  • Two aides' wages - RM1,500 per month each, without allowance and overtime claim;
  • One-off payment for service centre renovation - RM20,000;
  • Service centre monthly rental - in accordance to the premises' going rate; and,
  • Service centre administration monthly allowance - RM2,000
According to state executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah's assistant Hiew Kim Boon, the state government allocated RM10,000 for engaging at least three PAs after the May 5 general election.
"But for those who wish to hire more aides due to heavy workload, the assemblypersons have to pay the wages using their own money," he told Malaysiakini.
Monetarily stung by position

Hiew said some aides received a monthly salary of merely RM1,300, as the legislators operate on limited budgets.

In a bid to enhance the professionalism of state of exco policy advisors, Hiew said, the related pay had been raised from RM3,000 to RM5,000, so as to turn the part-time advisor into a full time staffer to make the policy making process more relevant.

NONEGenerally, experts suggested the Selangor government consult the public in matters concerning pay hikes, as well as establish a proper system for institutionalised salary adjustments.

Political scientist and Penang Institute fellow Wong Chin Huat (left) said the state government must now reveal its plans to improve and upgrade the administration following the pay rise.
"In brief, I support the raise but we must see a better performing assembly, including specialised committees and longer session time," he said when contacted.

However, Wong regretted that the adjustment was apparently carried out without any public consultation.

"Certainly, I believe in better pay for electoral or politically appointed public office holders, but they must perform that includes local councillors, too," he added.
Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) civil rights committee chairperson Liau Kok Fah pointed out that there was no proper system to handle the elected representatives' pay issue at both the federal and state levels.

He described the salary adjustment without public consultation as "violating the rights of the bosses".

NONE"Before we talk about the increase rate (for salary), we should review who should be the one who decides this.

"Commonly, it is the bosses who decide, say people are the bosses, then why let the employees (legislators) to have a say? The procedure is not right, the government should consult the people first," said Liau.

Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies chairperson Ramon Navaratnam had described the increase as appearing to be unduly excessive.

"They (state government) must show they are worthy of the salary, and the added value committed to the salary increase," he said when contacted.

He also suggested setting up a review committee, which could be made up by assemblypersons and public representatives to ensure that legislators were not overworked and underpaid.

Low pay for political aides

Meanwhile, the low pay for assemblypersons' aides would result in poor enrolment of professionals in political works and high turnover in the industry.

The subsequent results include unprofessional and unhealthy political development without policy and ideology base.

To this, Selangor exco Elizabeth Wong's aide Law Teck Hao opined that without abundant resources, most assemblypersons hardly hired experienced talent with higher academic qualifications, but only fresh graduates for their think tanks. 

"Some say stomachs have to be filled in the democratic struggle...when it comes to parliamentary reform and professional political work, low pay does not help," he said.

Conceding his life was tough, Law said that his salary was not in accordance with his workload, working as he does almost seven days a week.

Asked about the occupational prospects, he said that it was not "all right" and "sensitive" for aides to serve different elected representatives as this involved the issue of loyalty and integrity.

Hiew had revealed the lower salary for aides of BN legislators in Selangor before Pakatan took over in 2008, but could afford luxurious cars.

He said he was puzzled upon seeing the BN's aides driving such cars as, for sure, they earned less than RM1,5000 per month. 

Meanwhile, Mohd Hafiz Abdul Razak, who serves state exco Iskandar Abdul Samad, said that some of his colleagues could not even pay instalments for houses and motorbikes on time hamstrung by the low pay.

"I'm just lucky as I earn side income by being a motivational speaker, but others have no idea on how to make extra money," he said. He has been an aide for almost four years.

Describing life as hard, he added that he could not afford to buy his own property so he and his wife stay in a rented a house.

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