Oct 15, 2015 News
By Kiana Wilburg
The recent salary increases for Members of Parliament (MPs) are not exorbitant said Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman, yesterday. In fact, he believes it is “fair.”
He said, too, that the increases were necessary to address certain disparities in the salary structure in the three arms of the government the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary.
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, told Kaieteur News on Tuesday that the salary increases for Ministers and Members of Parliament were necessary for three reasons – to outline an income for Vice Presidents which did not exist before, to correct anomalies in the payment structure and finally, because the work load has increased.
Jordan said, “We inherited a system where the President was receiving a salary of about $2M non-taxable. The Prime Minister was receiving a taxable salary of some $1.5M while the Attorney General, the Chancellor and the Chief Justice were receiving $1.6M.
“There was no allocation for Vice Presidents; this position did not exist under the PPP. But the Senior and Junior Ministers were receiving the same pay of about $579, 000.”
He continued, “It is clear that there are huge anomalies there. The President, Prime Minister and AG are receiving massive salaries and your seniors and juniors are at the same level, one-third of what the Prime Minister was receiving. Nowhere in the Caribbean does such a system exist.”
The Finance Minister had explained that for Junior Ministers, the $579, 000 was increased by 12 ½ percent while for senior Ministers it was increased by 50 percent. As for the Vice Presidents, he said, they received a 60 percent increase on the $579,000.
He noted that the $1.6M salary for the Attorney General was increased by five percent while the Prime Minister’s salary was increased by 10.7 percent. The Attorney General, until now, was earning more than the Prime Minister.
But even with the increase, the Prime Minister will take home less than the Attorney General who pays no taxes.
He confirmed that President David Granger stands to benefit from the increase since his salary will be raised by five percent.
The salary increases were published in the Official Gazette of September 25. The report listed Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo’s salary as now $20,580,000 per annum, while the salary of every Vice-President was listed as $11,135,064.
Cabinet Ministers’ salaries went up to $10,439,124 per annum while the Junior Ministers were entitled to $8,346,492.
To those who are incensed by the salary bumps, Trotman said yesterday, the administration is not numb to their concerns. He said, “Trust us. You trusted us with government on May 11 and we ask you to continue to trust us and believe in us.”
He made those statements, among others, as he was grilled at length on the issue during a post Cabinet press briefing.
This newspaper reminded Trotman that when government took office it lamented that the economy was slowing down, the Consolidated Fund was in heavy overdraft hence major increases for certain public sector workers were not possible. He was even reminded of statements made to the effect that government has no apology to make about the increases.
Asked if he would concede that this was indeed a political misstep for the government, Trotman skirted around the question. He said, “Let me correct something, government never said it has no apology to make for the increases, the press I believe quoted the Minister of State, Joseph Harmon who I think was asked to give a comment at an event… and I think perhaps, he was caught off guard but it is not necessarily that he was misspeaking but just perhaps giving an opinion.”
Trotman said the fact that Ministers have engaged the press on the matter of the salary increases is proof that they are not hiding.
The Governance Minister was then pressed for his response to the concerns of the ordinary man who is earning $50,000 a month meanwhile, he and his colleagues are raking in over $600, 000 a month plus benefits.
“Well, we say to the Guyanese people to trust us…I think if you were to do a comparative study of the salaries of Government and Judicial officers throughout the region, you would find that these are in no way, above or far from what is the norm. I believe that the Finance Minister actually gave the reasons for the differentials…There is nothing excessive,” he said.
Minister Trotman is of the opinion also that what may be escaping the attention of the public is the fact that the Leader of the Opposition got a “sizeable” increase and so did every MP.
He disclosed that there is a proposal currently before Cabinet to give consideration to former MPs of all the parties who had served over the years.
“Many of them get a pension in the sum of $20,000 from the Parliament and we are looking to address some disparities that exist. We hear the concerns of the people. We are not numb to it but we ask that they trust us so that we can bring that good life to them…”
Asked if government couldn’t wait a little longer to make the increases, Trotman said, “There is no part of the world where increases in salaries for politicians have gone down well… it is not a popular decision to take. In some countries it has led to riots but we believe it was necessary.”
“Of course 20/20 vision tells you that the time was perhaps wrong or right but in a matter like this, there is no such thing as the right time because other events overtake you and there is no such time perhaps as the present.”
The Minister of Governance reiterated that the government never hid the fact that the increases were coming. He emphasized that they were inevitable.
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