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Holness: Gov't must take pay cut

Published:Monday | February 11, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Opposition Leader Andrew Holness says if Jamaicans are again going to be asked to make sacrifices for the good of the country, the Government must demonstrate good faith and participate in that sacrifice.

Holness said this can be done by trimming the size of the Cabinet and slashing the salaries of members of the political executive.

"If they are asking for wage freezes, they must take a pay cut themselves," he said of the Government during a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) press conference held yesterday at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus.

"They must show signs that they are being frugal and participating in the sacrifice," he insisted.

Holness' call came a day before Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips were to update the nation on the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a new standby agreement.

However, Phillips has already signalled that public-sector workers should not expect an increase in wages because the resources are not available.

"If you are going to call for the cooperation of all the sectors of the society, then you must symbolically, at least, show that you too bear in the sacrifice," Holness said.

He said recent statements coming out of the Government suggest that there could be cuts to some of the social-protection programmes, including the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, but warned against this.

Holness conceded that the execution of an austerity package was the prerogative of the Government, but emphasised that steps must be taken to provide protection for the poor, the most vulnerable and "those who live on the margins".

"Austerity does not mean that the poor must suffer more than they are already suffering," he said.

Holness added: "My worry is that I only hear people saying we are trying to protect the poor, but I don't see the actions that suggest that the Government is actually seeking to protect the poor."