Oct 23, 2015 News
…Confesses that poor PR was at the core of the problem
By: Kiana Wilburg
Prime Minister (PM) and First Vice President , Moses Nagamootoo is now the first member of the government’s camp to admit that the approach towards the salary increases for Members of Parliament (MPs) was seriously flawed.
He conceded on Wednesday that given his responsibility for Public Information, Public Relations (PR) work on the salary increase was indeed poor and government really should have made a concerted effort to engage the people at the grass root level on the necessity of the changes in the salary scales for the Ministerial bureaucracy.
The First Vice President made these comments and more during a press briefing which was held at the Ministry of the Presidency.
Asked for his take on the matter and whether he found the salary increases to be obscenely high, the Prime Minister said, “I believe that this was one failure of PR for which I take responsibility as the head of the Information Services of the Government. But it was not explained fully; it was not properly packaged…”
“I believe there was a studied approach to the abnormalities in the salary scales starting from the President coming down but it had to be explained why this was necessary.”
The First Vice President said that a Junior Minister’s salary was around $500, 000 and this was below the salary being earned by his Permanent Secretary. He noted that while the Junior Ministers had an increase of about 12 and a half percent, Senior Ministers had an increase of around 50 percent which works out to about $800, 000 a month.
Nagamootoo also explained that there was no salary previously allocated for the Vice Presidents (VP) and as such their salary was calculated based on a 60 percent increase on what Senior Cabinet Ministers were taking home.
“Of course the anomaly that had started a lot of this was the salary of the Attorney General (AG) which was higher than the Prime Minister and I could appreciate where the past government felt that they didn’t have a lawyer in the office of PM so they allowed a functional lawyer becoming the AG to have more pay than the PM.”
He alluded to the point that since this case does not exist anymore given that he is a practiced lawyer then indeed the salary scale should be adjusted.
Nagamootoo said that it is important to note that , “the Leader of the Opposition takes home more than the PM because the salary of the former President was placed on a high level because of some tweaking so that 7/8 of the presidential salary becomes his pension. The leader of the opposition, who refuses to take parliamentary salary, is getting $2.1 M tax free and the PM is taking home $1.7 minus tax.”
“Remember, you are dealing with about 20 persons and not 27, 000 and it (salary increases) was done to deal with the levels in the Ministerial bureaucracy. But it was a PR problem.”
Nagamootoo said that because of the poor PR, there was a backlash because the people held the Coalition government to a higher level of transparency and accountability.
He emphasized too that the salary increases didn’t come because government felt it was entitled to “super salaries” but based on the amount of persons the State could afford at this time.
The Prime Minister disclosed that down the line the Public Service workers would see another increase as well but in a phased manner. He said that this is however hinged on the outcome of the ongoing Commission of Inquiry into the public service.
Appealing for members of the media to understand the reasons for government’s decision, Nagamootoo stated, “We didn’t decide to turn our backs on the people and walk away with the cookie jar. We looked after the people first then those anomalies.”
“We knew it going to be unpopular but that does not justify why we didn’t go to the bottom houses and the grassroots to explain why we want to make the necessary changes and that we are not here for us but about you.”
Referring to himself as a “fiscal conservative” Nagamootoo reiterated that the salary increases for MPs was not motivated by greed.
He believes that the outrage on the matter has run its course and understands that it was twisted by some to paint them as a set of “greedy, thieving, hungry ministers.”
The Prime Minister said that the salary increases for MPs would not be revisited for a while.
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