What do MPs spend their allowances on?

Mr Edwin Tong of Moulmein-Kallang GRC said he does not spend his MP allowance on himself.

SINGAPORE - Under the recommendations of the committee to review ministerial salaries, MPs will see an allowance cut to $192,500.

This is about a 3 per cent cut from their 2010 allowance, a relatively small cut compared to the pay cut of 36 to 37 per cent the Prime Minister and ministers are facing.

However, MPs say the job expenses are diverse and often hefty, and just like regular salaries, their allowances are subject to income tax deductions.

In addition, it is the norm for MPs to contribute a percentage of their allowance to their political party, if they are affiliated to one.

For the People's Action Party, MPs donate 10 per cent of their allowance to the party. The same applied for Mr Chiam See Tong of Singapore Democratic Party when he was an MP, Mr Sin Kek Tong, 64, founder of SPP previously said.

The Straits Times (ST) interviewed 10 MPs to see where their monthly allowance goes to.

Mr Edwin Tong, MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, told ST that when he became MP, he opened a separate bank account for his monthly MP allowance, which he only uses for MP-related purposes.

These include dinners with grassroots activists and charitable donations.

He does not see the allowance as income for himself, and having a separate bank account makes it more transparent, he said.

Mr Zainudin Nordin, MP of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, said MPs may make regular donations to charitable causes, as well as ad-hoc donations made to individuals and organisations.

Other expenses include constituency-related donations, such as to welfare funds, he said.

He added that he also pays for retreats and gatherings for grassroots activists to build teamwork.

Ms Ellen Lee, MP of Sembawang GRC, told ST that she donated $20,000 to the building fund of her ward's community centre.

It appears that this altruistic behaviour is the norm, according to the MPs. Mr David Ong, MP of Jurong GRC, said the MPs take every chance to give back to the community.

Dr Janil Puthucheary, MP of Pasir-Ris-Punggol GRC, said he donates portions of his allowance anonymously.

Ms Tin Pei Ling, MP of Marine Parade GRC, said she spends about half her MP allowance on donations and grassroots activities.

She comes out several thousand dollars each month to grassroots functions. For example, she is forking out almost $10,000 for the upcoming Chinese New Year dinner.

The average dinner for activists cost $5,000 to $6,000.

For what is left of her allowance, she said she is planning to use the money to fund a new social project in her ward, which she will launch soon.

She added that she uses her personal savings for expenses such as travel.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan, MP for Mountbatten, said about 10 per cent of his monthly allowance goes towards more personal causes, such as the weddings or funerals of grassroots activists and volunteers.

Dr Lily Neo, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, has been previously reported to have donated her increase in MP allowance back in 2011 to Public Assistance receipients in her constituency.

Mr Ang Hin Kee, MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, told Chinese daily Zaobao that MPs all have issues they are close with. He is personally concerned with the disadvantaged in society and reintegrating ex-convicts into society.

Therefore, he will donate to related projects. Even though the sums may be small, by doing so, Mr Ang hopes that he will attract others to do likewise.

Marine Parade GRC MP Seah Kian Peng also told Zaobao that he helped foot part of the renovation bill for his ward's Braddell Heights Community Centre. Other than that, he will also take care of the expenses for dinners held in appreciation of his ward's volunteers.

yamadak@sph.com.sg