What happened?

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has defended the imposition of parking fees for teachers nationwide. This came after a widely-shared parliament speech by MP Seah Kian Peng, which criticised the measure for disregarding the small acts of sacrifice made by teachers for their students. While Seah noted that most teachers had “moved on” from the announcement, he alluded to it to support his view that policy should move beyond pure economic reasoning, and also account for moral considerations. According to Ong, however, this decision was done to ensure “internal self-discipline” in keeping with the civil service’s “clean wage” policy, which states that the wages received by public servants should have no hidden benefits.

The move to impose parking fees came after findings from the Auditor General’s Office highlighted that the free or discounted parking teachers enjoyed amounted to a “hidden subsidy”, and thus could be considered an unclean wage. After a review, MOE announced that teachers will be charged market rates for parking from August onwards.

More ownself checking ownself?

The broader message that Ong put across was that this move was important in upholding a system of checks and balances within the public service. This meant that, no matter how unfair this might have seemed to teachers, they ultimately had to take seriously the findings of the AGO. This message of checks and balances, however, might ring hollow when it has been pointed out that the much more salient issue of lapses in the People’s Association’s accounts found by the AGO has yet to be followed up with a full and proper audit.

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