As recession bites, companies are cutting back on such expenses


AS IF they don't already have enough on their plates, some head honchos of multinational companies (MNCs) here have taken to scrutinising their employees' business trips.

Such expenses, it seems, require the chief executive's (CEO) nod in some 67 per cent of organisations, as companies tighten their budgets, according to the latest Hewitt Compensation Watch Survey.

The international human resource firm had polled 53 companies, mostly MNCs.

Is this the best use of a CEO's time?

"A total waste of effort," said Mr Henry Cheong, managing director of Telesto Broadcast Solutions. "It might work for a small company, but not for one that has 500 to 1,000 people or more."

As it is, CEOs have other bigger worries. "We have to find ways to grow our business, all the more in these economic times, find new markets and improve our bottom line," said Philips Electronics chief Wong Lup Wai, adding that the MNC would not be adopting this tack any time soon.

"We believe in empowering our business unit managers to make these decisions," he said.

Other MNCs that Today spoke to were coy about revealing whether they had resorted to taxing their CEOs in this manner. However, they did admit to switching their travel mode from business class to economy or even budget, video- and teleconferencing.

However, Ms Annie Yap, managing director of AYP, believes that the practice is more of a deterrent than the CEO going through a pile of applications.

"It's to weed out the non-critical from the critical business trips," she said.

Business travel expenses are projected to be cut by 21 per cent this year. Other findings in the Hewitt survey include fewer retention bonuses, reduced year-end variable bonuses and overtime pay.

Salary projections in Singapore are expected to slump by minus 5.4 per cent in June to September, with the lowest increase among senior management (1.9 per cent). But professional and general staff will experience the highest pay increase at 2.3 per cent.

Job seekers looking for a big jump might want to head to India, with companies there offering 8.2 per cent in wage hikes — highest Asia-wide.

From TODAY, News – Wednesday, 22-April-2009


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