Last week, Malaysians got really curious about the allowances our Cabinet ministers enjoy after it was announced that the government is cutting "critical allowances" for newly hired civil servants to save costs
The decision to cut the Critical Service Incentive Payment (BIPK) for new doctors, nurses, engineers and other professionals joining the civil service starting 1 January 2020 was announced by the Public Service Department (JPA) in a circular, stating that these professions are no longer "critical".
The move sparked a huge outcry among the public with over 100,000 of them signing a petition started by doctors asking for BIPK to be reinstated for the new recruits in the 33 affected professions.
Following which, on Friday, 27 December, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has postponed the critical allowance cut for now.
"The prime minister agreed to delay the JPA circular on critical allowance and the Cabinet will discuss this issue in its first meeting next year in January," Syed Saddiq said in a video uploaded on his Facebook page.
The curiosity peaked when a newspaper cutting went viral.
It claimed that a Cabinet minister is given RM5,700 parking allowance.
However, the claim about RM5,700 parking allowance for ministers has since been rubbished by Minister of Foreign Affairs Saifuddin Abdullah, who said that "as far as I know, such a thing does not exist".
According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, monthly salary and allowances for every minister in the Cabinet are the same, except for the prime minister and the deputy prime minister.
Since then, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister has reportedly revealed — that on top of the monthly salary — just how much in allowances he and his Cabinet colleagues take home
According to the minister, while details about these allowances are not available publicly as the document is "classified", he is revealing the details to be transparent.
"When government files are labelled as 'confidential' it means the letter, circular or document cannot be circulated but the contents and details can be shared," Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini.
"There is nothing to hide. My view on this issue of this viral image (on ministers' allowances) is to be transparent with our incomes and not exploit or partake in corruption. The rest, we leave to the rakyat."
First things first, how much is a minister's monthly salary?
While simple enough question, the answer is slightly complicated considering that a minister can also be a member of Parliament.
As revealed by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister:
A minister is paid RM13,400 a month in salary.
A member of Parliament (MP) is paid RM16,000 a month in salary.
Before we go any further, an important reminder that while Pakatan Harapan (PH) Cabinet ministers' salary and allowances are exactly what was paid to Barisan National (BN) Cabinet ministers, the PH Cabinet ministers have been taking a 10% pay cut after they took office in May last year.
The PH ministers, who are all also the MPs, basically enjoy the same allowances as MPs except for the attendance allowance of RM400 a day to attend parliamentary sittings.
So, the total monthly salary that a minister, who is also an MP, takes home is RM29,400. This is after the 10% cut and does not include the allowances that he/she can claim.
Monthly salary aside, here's how much our ministers actually take home in allowances: cash perks amounting to RM25,000 a month
The breakdown of allowances that ministers can claim on a monthly basis are:
RM12,000: Entertainment allowance
RM4,000: Cabinet minister's allowance
RM4,000: Housing allowance (not claimable if residing in an official residence)
RM2,500: Domestic helper allowance
RM2,500: Driver allowance
According to Saifuddin Nasution, these fixed allowances come up to RM25,000 a month.
Additionally, ministers also enjoy a vacation allowance
The annual vacation allowance includes return flight on first or business class for the minister and his/her spouse plus economy class air travel for children aged under 21, Saifuddin Nasution revealed.
Malaysiakini further quoted Saifuddin saying that ministers can also claim a daily stipend and food allowance if they need to travel for work. He, however, said that he did not remember the exact amount.
"It's not much and does not measure up to how tiring work travel is unless we're talking about the foreign minister or international trade and industry minister whose duties involve travelling every month or those ministers who just enjoy travelling," Saifuddin Nasution reportedly quipped.
Taking into account, the monthly salary (RM29,400) and the monthly allowances (RM25,000), the total cash remuneration that a minister takes home every month is RM54,400.
While the above was about the MPs in Dewan Negara, the Dewan Rakyat representatives have a different set of allowances, including:
RM400 per day: Attendance for Parliamentary sittings
RM300 per day: Attendance for government agency meetings or workshops
RM2,500 per month: Entertainment allowance
RM1,500 per month: Special payment (except if the MP is member of the administration)
RM1,500 per month: Fixed travel allowance
RM1,500 per month: Fuel allowance
RM300 per month: Toll allowance
RM1,500 per month: Driver allowance
RM1,500: Black-tie attire subsidy
Business-class air travel allowance and first-class rail travel allowance which includes:
RM400 a night: Hotel allowance when on domestic duty more than 32km from home
RM100 a night (domestic), RM170 a night (international): Daily stipend during business trips
RM340 a night: Food allowance when overseas
Meanwhile, Saifuddin Nasution's revelation has prompted comments from netizens with some calling the allowances "extravagant".
Do you think the allowances enjoyed by our elected officials are too much? You can share your thoughts on our Facebook page here.