Fri | Dec 6, 2019

Letter of the Day | Do MPs deserve more money?

Published:Tuesday | November 19, 2019 | 12:38 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

Once again the argument that members of parliament (MPs) should get a pay rise is back on the agenda. The question that many of us are asking is, do they actually deserve it? I can bet that many persons will instinctively say no.

However, one might think about this matter, we can all agree that our MP’s are paid dirt cheap. And in an age where the needs of the people they serve are even greater, it can well be argued that it is about time they do get a substantial increase. But in Jamaica where civil servants can’t get big increases, I rather suspect that raising MPs pay would open the floodgates that no sensible government will ever contemplate.

But there are creative ways to boost the MP to be in a better position to meet the needs of the people.

For example, expand the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to twice the amount and broaden the scope of how that money can be spent. The current scope is highly restrictive.

At the same time, the fees that MPs pay to government agencies to implement works under the CDF needs to be taken over by Central Government or abolished. It can’t be that if MPs have five different projects going through five different agencies, they have to pay a fee or something to that effect. That’s rubbish. Those fees could be used to assist needy people further. Also, the MP must be given a greater say in how that money should be spent.

RETHINK FUNDING

Secondly, a serious look should be taken at empowering the local councillors. One of the reasons why MPs get so burdened down is that councillors don’t have the resources to address the needs of the people in a big way, so they keep referring persons to the MP. More money should be pumped through the municipal corporations to the councillors so they can address more needs of the people and alleviate the mounting stresses on the MPs, which would allow them to concentrate on the more serious issues.

An MP should not have to be paying for all back-to-school assistance. Councillors should be taking care of at least half of that. Same thing with burial assistance.

While corporations have programmes to help with that, it’s woefully short with the current price of funerals. MPs are the ones who have to chip in.

We need to rethink how we deal with funding in this country. Simple things can be done to help out. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Fix a couple of broken spokes, and the wheel will run better.

FABIAN LEWIS