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Newsmaker of the Week – Divergent opinions on the PM’s falling pay raise

Newsmaker of the Week: Divergent Opinions on the PM’s falling pay raise

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The decision by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to forgo his sizable pay boost under the current compensation review, a move that might have a severe effect on prior prime leaders, is this week’s highlighted overall development and Newsmaker of the Week.

Holness appears to have sought to reach a compromise with economically distressed Jamaicans in the face of days of intense protest over the government’s plan to give members of the local political directorate, particularly those at the Local Government level, substantial wage increases.

The country was still in uproar on Monday evening over the amounts of his and other elected politicians’ salary increases when he said at a press conference at Jamaica House, “I have directed the Transformation Implementation Unit (TIU) to remove the prime minister’s compensation from the new salary scale.”

Hence, according to Holness, “the prime minister’s remuneration will stay at its former level,” adding that no retroactive payments will be made to his pay.
The prime minister’s pay was supposed to increase under the review from $9.1 million in 2021 to $28.6 million on April 1, 2024.

The head of government would receive $25.3 million yearly by April 1, 2023, and then more than $28 million the following year.

Cabinet ministers, other lawmakers, and parish council members will all get the increased salary that Dr. Nigel Clarke, Minister of Finance and the Public Service, announced a week earlier, according to information provided by Holness during a news conference.

Despite the apparent compromise reached by Holness, a number of groups organized protests—although they were few in number—all of which demanded that the other relevant lawmakers make the same choice.

While MPs from the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) defend the raises they earned, some party members and other residents have encouraged Holness to reconsider his decision and accept the rise. The government has thus far mainly rejected these pleas.

In spite of calls for the general hikes to be pulled back from their party leader Mark Golding and PNP General Secretary Dr. Dayton Campbell, several Members of Parliament (MPs) from the opposition People’s National Party (PNP) have remained conspicuously mute on the issue.

“Can you picture the prime minister making less money than the president of the country? Madness! Quit being afraid of civil society and accept the pay that Holness deserves “On Tuesday, a JLP fan tweeted.

“It is wrong that the (current) prime minister will receive less pay. There was no need for pressure “Tweeted by someone else.

A new controversy arose on Wednesday as a result of Holness rejecting the new salary hike. Former prime ministers in Jamaica all receive pensions that are linked to the salary of the current prime minister, prompting calls from the PNP and civil society organizations for the political directorate’s entire salaries to be recalled and revised.

Notwithstanding Clarke’s suggestion that the decision would apply to all future holders of the position during a post-Cabinet news conference on Wednesday, there have since been hints that any future prime minister with an elected mandate may easily revisit the Holness choice.

“The scale for the position of prime minister should stay unchanged, according to the prime minister. Thus, it is the pay scale “Clarke stated.

“The choice was not made by Andrew Holness alone. He has requested that the prime minister’s pay scale stay unaltered “Clarke added his indication.

When asked by a reporter whether the prime minister’s choice would have an effect on retiring prime ministers, Clarke avoided explicitly answering but repeated his reaction about Holness’ rejection of the updated pay for the prime minister.

According to some reports, this circumstance would prevent the past prime ministers and their widows from having their pensions modified in light of the Holness ruling.

Bruce Golding, a former prime minister, would be similarly affected, but he had previously chosen to have his pension not be linked to the pay of any sitting prime minister. He decided to accept only two-thirds of that pay.

Holness attempted to refute rumors regarding his choice not to accept the wage rise, providing more clarification on matters pertaining to his pay. Given that he is both a member of parliament and a cabinet minister, the “misinformation” said that he got several salaries.

The prime minister “receives only one pay for these separate tasks,” the OPM stated in a statement on Wednesday.

According to the statement, regardless of how many distinct tasks or responsibilities a person does, they should only get one payment from the Consolidated Fund. 

This is in accordance with a long-standing philosophy of the Government of Jamaica.

For the avoidance of doubt, the OPM said that the prime minister of Jamaica does not earn a different salary as a Member of Parliament (MP) or as a Cabinet Minister.

Holness reaffirmed to individuals who continue to object to the raises given to elected officials that, “I’m still adamant that changes are essential to draw in, keep, and inspire employees with the qualifications and abilities needed to raise the effectiveness and efficiency of government.

“He said that it is impossible to ignore the public’s perception of lawmakers and issues with equity.

Holness unveiled a slew of accountability measures for government ministers and lawmakers on Monday, including penalties for missed committee and parliamentary sessions.

The OPM also made note of another concern that has been raised: how long would it take for the prime minister’s salary to be dropped from the new pay scale?

In reaction, Holness said: “This has wider consequences for the Office of Prime Minister, not only the current occupant, but prior occupants of the office, and maybe future occupants.

A new prime minister may always examine the situation, according to Holness.

Online comments on Holness’ decision on his pay prompted a flurry of responses.

Mark Golding, the leader of the opposition and president of the PNP, claimed that Holness’ wage rollback was insufficient and that it was only an effort “to try to take the weight off himself.”

Golding reaffirmed that considering Jamaica’s economy and the general displeasure of the populace, the wage increase for the political directorate is inexcusable.

At a news conference held on Wednesday at the PNP headquarters, he reiterated his plea for the cancellation of the whole wage package for the political directorate and for the subject to be reexamined by an impartial panel.

The decision by Holness to reject his significant pay rise under the Government’s compensation review was met with diverse reactions on social media.

A guy said on Facebook, “You deserve every penny because you are the only prime minister in recent memory who didn’t get a wage rise that wasn’t borrowed money.”

He said, “You expand our economy so you could buy fire trucks, police cars, create police stations, fire stations, helicopters, airplanes, patrol boats, and install water systems in some places without borrowing or any additional taxes.”

Another male user responded by saying, “Very true, Holness deserves every dime.

“He did it with a lot of sacrifice. It was not an easy route for this economy to turn around.”

“This decision by the PM is a tacit acknowledgment that the entire excessive pay hike was poorly thought out,” a lady said.

I scratched my head when I first heard about it, wondering why the JLP would make an own goal at this particular moment, she added.

Another person added: “Mr. Holness, it’s nice that you’re thinking about it (the pay), but this shouldn’t have ever entered your mind to accept, sir, since Jamaicans are feeling the effects of inflation.”


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