The Sabah state assembly passed two Bills today to raise the salaries of the governor, state ministers and executives, and state elected representatives from March 1 this year.
The Bills would increase by 40 per cent the privy purse, entertainment allowance and regional allowance of the head of state, and the salaries of the chief minister, deputy chief minister, state Cabinet ministers, assistant ministers, state Speaker, deputy state Speaker, state MPs and political secretaries.
The Bills were passed, but not unanimously. The ruling party’s lawmakers voted for them while some Opposition assemblymen were against the increases at a time Sabahans were suffering from a cost-of-living crisis.
According to Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, the increase would cost the state government some RM5.6 million per year.
The Head of State’s emoluments increase will cost the government RM165,048 annually. Hajiji argued that a review on this particular expense has not been made for 19 years, or since 2003 and he wanted to empower the governor’s role in state.
The second Bill, to increase the remuneration for the members of administration and elected representatives, will see the chief minister’s salary increase from RM23,595 to RM33,033; the deputy chief ministers’ salary increase from RM20,872.50 to RM29,221.50; the ministers and Speaker’s salaries increase from RM16,335 to RM22,869.
The deputy Speakers and deputy ministers’ salaries will increase from RM12,705 to 17,787 while state assemblymen will get paid RM11,130, up from RM7,950, and political secretaries will now receive RM7,623, up from RM5,445.
The last time there was an amendment to the salaries was in 2015, which saw a 50 per cent hike; before that in 2009, salaries were increased by up to 60 per cent.
However, some Opposition lawmakers said today that the timing of the increase was insensitive as many members of the public were struggling from the recent pandemic and increasing costs of living.
Sri Tanjung assemblyman Justin Wong said that leaders in some developed nations had voluntarily taken a 20 per cent pay cut to show solidarity with their constituents, and said this should be emulated.
Tanjung Aru assemblyman Datuk Junz Wong also said that despite lawmakers’ salary in Sabah being among the lowest, the timing of this salary hike was not appropriate.
Others who verbally voiced their concern were Luyang assemblyman Ginger Phoong.
Backbenchers like Kuamut assemblyman Datuk Rubin Balang, Sindumin’s Datuk Yusof Yaacob and Melalap assemblyman Datuk Peter Anthony spoke up in favour of the increase, saying it would help them serve their constituents better, especially in rural areas which was logistically challenging.
Hajiji said that the salary review had started during the Barisan Nasional administrations, which means at least four years ago, and said it took into consideration the current situation of Sabah’s vast areas, and other challenges.
He said that he was aware of the optics but said the important thing to remember was that the state needed to have good policies in place to help its people and improve their livelihood.
“The increment is needed because we are already low compared to other states in Peninsula. So we took the initiative with the intention that our elected representatives can better attend to their constituents.
“We cannot deny that it will create some perceptions and invite discourse but it is more important that we have plans and policies in place to help those in need. With this increase, we can help alleviate some of the financial responsibilities,” he said.