ASEAN Secretariat getting funds to raise staff salaries

National 1 minute, 47 seconds

YANGON

ASEAN member states have agreed to increase funding to the ASEAN Secretariat in order to increase staff salaries.

 ASEAN Secretary-General, Le Luong Minh, told _The Brunei Times _on Tuesday that leaders of the 10-member bloc agreed to increase funding by US$200,000, bringing the total annual contribution of each country to US$1.9 million for 2015.

“We are working on strengthening the ASEAN Secretariat. The budget for 2014 was US$17 million but for next year we will get US$2 million more because we are going to implement the new salary scale,” he said on the sidelines of a dialogue with regional journalists in Yangon.

 “So with this we hope to be able to recruit more qualified staff and retain those good staff.”

The annual budget for the secretariat is considered extremely modest for an organisation of its size, saddled with an ever-expanding mandate and activities.

 The resources at its disposal have remained static over the past 15 years even though ASEAN’s GDP has tripled to US$2.3 trillion during the same period.

 All member countries contribute an equal amount, so that no one country has undue influence. That amount had been set at US$1.7 million in the past, so that smaller, developing member economies such as Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, were able to afford the contribution.

 However this funding method has been criticised by some analysts for hampering the potential of the secretariat, with some saying members should be able to make voluntary contributions – on top of the required amount – to ensure an effective institution.

On the other hand, within United Nations - and its US$5 billion annual budget – funding is broadly based on the relative capacity of each country to pay, as measured by its gross national income.

 The ASEAN Secretariat is also significantly understaffed, with an employee roster of just 300.

A typical entry-level ASEAN headquarters professional is paid from US$2,000 to US$3,000 per month, thus failing to attract well-educated staff from countries like Singapore and Brunei where average graduate salaries are higher.

 Comparatively, other regional organisations such as the Asian Development Bank employs 3,051 people and offers the brightest brains in the region a minimum annual wage of US$74,100.

The Brunei Times