How Much Is Too Much Mr. Prime Minister?

The increase is too much!

Roll back the increase now!

Ali Baba and the forty thieves!

Politicians are just feathering their own nests!

Unconscionable and immoral!

The above is some of the utterances in the public sphere since the Andrew Holness-led administration announced a mammoth salary increase for the political directorate.

The increase has stirred up the hornet’s nest, and the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have backpedaled in different ways since the announcement.

Firstly, Prime Minister Holness miscalculated the people’s mood and was forced to give up his share of the increase, albeit his wife gets to keep hers.

On the other hand, in trying to take the high moral ground, the Leader of the Opposition has decided to take only twenty percent of his salary increase.

However, with all the hullabaloo, two major questions one may ask are:

One, are the politicians deserving of an increase?

Two, how much increase do they deserve?

I would argue that all workers deserve increases in salary based on productivity and output.

The truth is the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, has argued that the new salaries should be viewed as part of a revised public-sector-compensation structure and not strictly an increase in salary per sē.

However, with no new job description and job specification for the political directorate, the over 200 percent the politicians took for themselves may be viewed as self-kindness and a hard pill for the public to swallow.

According to Minister Clarke, among the persons who will benefit under the revised salary structure are the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Senior Cabinet Ministers, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ministers of State, Parliamentary Secretaries, Leader of the Opposition, and Members of Parliament, Mayors, Deputy Mayors, and Councilors.

The Minister noted that consequent on the adjustments, the Prime Minister’s salary, with effect from April 1, 2022, will total $22.3 million; April 1, 2023 – $25.2 million; and April 1, 2024 – $28.5 million.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s salary will move to $20.09 million in the first year, $22.7 million in the second year, and $25.7 million in year three.

The Minister of Finance will see adjustments of $19.2 million, with effect from April 1, 2022; $21.7 million, effective April 1, 2023; and $24.5 million, effective April 1, 2024.

The salary of the Leader of the Opposition will increase to $20 million, effective April 1, 2022; $22.7 million, April 1, 2023; and $25.7 million, with effect from April 2024.

Gone are the days when salaries were accounted for in thousands, but I digressed.

Now, certainly, the masses would find the ‘salary increase’ more palatable if the Minister had announced some standards by which performance would be measured going forward, as well as having an accountability template in place.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has argued that “Everyone who is occupying a political office ought to be thinking very carefully that I need to increase my political performance, because there are many young people out there now who have started to look at entering the political field with higher educational qualifications, higher skill level, and higher competencies.”

However, if the Prime is to be taken seriously, the public must see the goals and objectives that the political directorate will be measured against.

He said further, “You are going to see, as a result of this increase, an improvement in the level of entrants coming into the political field. You’re also going to see an improvement in the existing occupants of the posts, because they have to now step up their game.”

Again, good posturing by the Prime Minister, but higher salaries do not spell better entrants or improved performance.

The fact is the opposite may very well happen.

With this new largesse, one would be hard-pressed to find new vacancies as existing occupants now have more interest and leverage to keep their positions by any means necessary.

In a democracy, it’s the people who employ the political directorate, not the Prime Minister.

Consequently, if people vote for a cabinet of dunces, that is what the Prime Minister must work with, which also applies to the Opposition.

The truth is there must be some constitutional change in which the people can hire and fire politicians.

Anything less is an appeal to the people’s ignorance by the current government, and the Prime Minister knows it.

In conclusion, the Prime Minister must be reminded that Jamaica has not seen a 5 percent annual growth in GDP since the 1960s.

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Readers Bureau, Contributor

Edited by Jesus Chan

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