Oct 11, 2015 News
– says it was never part of Govt’s manifesto
By Kiana Wilburg
How can the four-month-old government objectively determine that its Ministers deserve a 50 percent salary increase when they have not been evaluated? Moreover, this was never a part of their 2015 campaign manifesto so how did it become priority?
These questions and more, continue to gnaw at the peace of mind of Calvin Bernard, Head of the Transparency Institute Guyana Inc. (TIGI).
The public did not learn about this 50 percent salary increase from a press release from Government’s proficient information arm; it did not learn about this through Government’s revamped programme which airs weekly, “The Public Interest” or from a post Cabinet press briefing with the media.
Such a significant development was published in the Official Gazette of September 25.
The gazette report listed the Prime Minister’s salary as $20,580,000 per annum, while the salary of every Vice-President was listed as $11,135,064 per annum.
Cabinet Ministers’ salaries were listed as $10,439,124 per annum while the Junior Ministers were listed as receiving $8,346,492 per annum.
Bernard said that the increase, like the modification at the level of ministries, was not part of the party’s manifesto for the 2015 elections, “So it begs the question, how did it become such a priority?”
“The way in which it was done suggests that there was hope that it would go unnoticed. One of the first things we learned from the new government was that the Treasury was nearly broke when they took office.
“If we are near broke how do we afford these increases? We should therefore be given a clear explanation on how they will be funded,” the TIGI Head said.
He argued that the salaries paid to public servants are “shameful” and likely drives some to corrupt the systems.
Following the tabling of the 2015 budget, the basic minimum wage was increased from $39,540 to $50,000 effective July 1.
Also effective July 1, 2015 was that all other public servants received a five percent salary increase, in addition to $5,000 monthly. Minister of Finance Winston Jordan had stated that this was to allow a greater increase in the lower income brackets.
It had also been announced that workers currently earning $50,000 will have a monthly increase of $7,500, or 15 percent, while a person currently receiving a salary of $100,000 would get a 10 percent increase.
Bernard contended that the public service received increases of “no real consequence” as it relates to giving them a decent living and allowing them to stop corrupt activities; or at least not to think themselves justified in corrupting the system.
In spite of a chorus of disapproval being sung by the Guyana Teachers Union, the Guyana Trades Union Congress, Red Thread and regular letter writers, Minister of State Joseph Harmon insisted earlier this week that the increases are justifiable considering the quality of Cabinet members. “Government has no apologies to make.”
The Minister also stated the increases would prevent certain situations which occurred under the past administration, when Ministers were prepared to accept “lowly” salaries, but would engage in corrupt practices.
Bernard however, disagrees with Harmon’s “justification.” He said, “Everyone knows that ministers never steal for need, but for greed. No matter what you pay a greedy thief he will still steal. Better to make sure you have no thieves in the system. Additionally, theft at the high level is indirectly felt by the ordinary man.”
The TIGI Head added, “Minister Harmon says that the ministers deserve the increases, but how could they objectively determine this when they have not been evaluated?”
He recalled that the issue of salary increases for the new government ministers goes back to early August when it first came out in a section of the print media. But it was vehemently rejected by Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman who had said that government was only “considering” it.
Bernard recalled that government said that it was looking at setting up some structure for salary scales. He emphasized that the impression given by Trotman was that it was not going to be implemented anytime soon.
He said that it is important to note that while in opposition, “The same folks (the current administration) considered the salaries of the then government (PPP) to be too high.”
Bernard reminded of a letter by Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge only a few months before the historic May 11, General and Regional Elections which was published in the print media
In that letter, published March 30, last, Greenidge was responding to statements made by General Secretary (GS) of the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C), Clement Rohee on March 16, attempting to defend the PPP against criticisms of lavish lifestyles.
Rohee claimed that the salaries and benefits enjoyed by the then government ministers reflect the principles of the “lean” and “clean” government asserted by the late President Cheddi Jagan.
The Foreign Affairs Minister carefully made the point that former PPP ministers have always paid themselves higher salaries than existed prior to their assumption of office. He noted that the same applies to benefits.
“In fact, the first significant increase in ministerial salaries after independence was made soon after Dr Jagan took office. In 1993 Dr Jagan approved a 10% increase which moved senior ministers to $25,235/month. The next year an additional 33% hike took them to $33,723. In 2006 a massive increase further moved the ministers to $347,644/month.”
By 2014, the Minister of Finance was receiving $579,951, which is not a reduction from G$20,483; nor is the Attorney General’s salary of $1.6 million, which is 35 times the (then) minimum wage…”
Greenidge emphasized that basic ministerial salaries and allowances have increased every year since the PPP took office in 1992. The new administration has not steered off this route as it has significant increases while insisting that it is “justified.”
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