Jamaica Chamber of Commerce supports phasing politicians' big salary increases
The Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) is urging the Government to phase in massive salary increases approved for politicians, putting further pressure on the Holness administration which is facing calls for a rollback.
"We humbly suggest that the increases for the political leadership - including the HPM (Honourable Prime Minister) - be phased over a longer period than has been proposed with a detailing of the benchmarks to be used in justifying suggested increases," the JCC said.
The business group said the implementation "should be in line with the projected timing to move average public sector wages and to achieve specific economic targets".
"Certainly, it should only be implemented after the finalisation of the accountability measures that the HPM has spoken about. The JCC also supports the establishment of an independent body to oversee future adjustments and systemic increases," added the statement issued Thursday under the name of JCC President Michael McMorris.
The Government has been facing national outrage since May 16 when Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke advised Parliament of the increases, which sees compensation to members of parliament (MPs) and Cabinet ministers surging past 200 per cent.
Salaries are being restructured to cover the period April 2022 to March 2025.
The prime minister's salary was slated to jump 214 per cent, from $9 million in 2021 to $28.6 million on April 1, 2024. It was set for $25 million this year. Cabinet ministers and MPs are to receive a 230 per cent increase. Ministers' pay is to move from $6.9 million in 2021 to $20 million this year and $23 million next year. MPs' take-home pay will move from $4.3 million to $12.5 million and then up to $14.2 million.
The deputy prime minister's salary has also surged by 221 per cent, moving from a little over $8 million in 2021 to $25.7 million effective April 1, 2024. As of April 1, 2023, the deputy prime minister is being paid $22.7 million per year. The leader of the opposition has received a similar increase to that of the deputy prime minister.
The JCC said it supports the compensation review for all public sector workers, including politicians.
But it said there should have been "an effective public education program" implemented before the "dramatically varied readjustments and increases" to workers.
"Much greater transparency around matters such as this is almost as important as the solution itself, as we have seen time and time again. Especially after the announcement of the increases to parliamentarians, questions abound about the reasonableness of those increases relative to our socioeconomic position versus other countries of comparable size and economic challenges. This is exacerbated by the longstanding un-kept promises of accountability," the group said.
"To implement such increases before deliverables have been defined and accountability measures established and communicated is not the message we want to send to our people," the JCC added.
On Monday, after almost a week of criticisms, Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced that job evaluations for ministers that he said were ready from 2021 will be finalised at Cabinet and tabled in Parliament, among a series of other accountability measures.
He also said to show that he "symbolically and truthfully" understands public outrage, he was declining the increase for the prime minister, reverting to the $9million being paid before the reforms.
Pointing to the decades-old formula used to pay ministers, Holness disclosed that the figures could have been higher, but “we decided to bring it down to what would not compromise the logic of the compensation system”.
The logic, he said, is aligning compensation with responsibility.
The Opposition People's National Party, whose leader Mark Golding last week said he's giving 80 per cent of his increase to charity, has demanded a rollback of the hikes for politicians. Initially its finance spokesman said there was "no issue" with the increases.
The JCC joins the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Teachers' Association, the Jamaica Council of Churches, the National Integrity Action, the Advocates Network, and the Jamaica Civil Service Association, that have expressed concerns about the increases for the political directorate.
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