Cabinet Ministers are to see their salaries rise by 50% in a move likely to generate criticism as public servants were given a small salary hike after having been promised a “significant” increase by the APNU+AFC government.
Minister of State Joseph Harmon yesterday said that he would make no apologies for the 50% salary increases to Cabinet ministers, arguing that it is well-deserved.
“I’m not going to make any apologies whatsoever for ministers getting an increase in salaries, they deserve it,” Harmon exclaimed at the National Cultural Centre.
The order for the increase was approved by the Minister of Finance Winston Jordan two days prior to being published in the Official Gazette on September 23, 2014.
The approval of the increases comes in the face of criticism when the matter was first floated in the public in July. Minister of Governance Raphael Trotman had denied at a post cabinet press briefing in early August that there would be any “astronomical” pay increases.
Trotman had said that there was a review in place to set salaries that would differentiate the variety of posts including junior ministers, senior ministers and vice presidents.
According to the Official Gazette, Cabinet ministers will now receive $10,439,124 annually, a 50% increase from what was previously stated in the Principal Act. Also enjoying a 50% increase will be the Speaker of the National Assembly who will remain on par with Cabinet ministers as well as the Leader of the Opposition. Their monthly earnings will be just under $870,000 from the $579,000 monthly under the previous administration.
Vice Presidents, other than the PM, are to be paid $11,135,064 per annum.
Junior Ministers of Government will earn $8,346,492, an over 16% increase from the annual salary of a Cabinet minister under the former administration who was earning $6,959,412 annually.
The Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo will now receive $20,580,000 annually, an over $2M increase from what was previously stipulated in the Principal Act, taking his monthly salary to over $1.7M.
Members of Parliament without a designation will see a 20% salary increase, taking their annual salaries from $2,002,116 to $2,402,532. Parliamentary Secretaries and the Chief Whip will earn over 12% more, taking their salaries from $3,336,876 and $2,384,328 to $3,753,984 to $2,682,360 respectively.
The Deputy Speaker will now earn $2,702,880, just under a $300,000 annual increase.
The Gazette stated that the Attorney General and the Chancellor will earn the same annual salary and no change was made.
While in opposition, APNU and the AFC had heavily criticised what they termed “fat cats” with “upper salaries”. Now in government, when asked to justify the increase yesterday, Harmon said that “the ministers of government now justify an increase. The salary of a minister, a senior minister is five hundred and sixty something thousand a month. That is money I paid to one of my attorneys that works for me when I was in private practice. Why should I be working for that?”
Harmon appeared agitated during the questions and reporters were unable to clarify if he supported the view that persons who willingly take up public office should expect to be paid at the level of the private sector.
Justifying the move by the government, he added “And if you look at the Cabinet you will find people of quality are there. Also I believe it is justifiable. You cannot have a situation like in the PPP where they were prepared to accept low salaries because they were thiefing money all over the place. We are not going to do that, our ministers will have to sign to a code of conduct, a code of service which requires them to act at a different level and so we have to pay people well if you want them to perform.”
That code of conduct is yet to be presented to the country more than four months into the life of the APNU+AFC government.
Critics have said that ministerial salaries should not be raised much beyond the increase which was paid out to public servants. Effective from July 1, 2015, the minimum salary in the public service was set at $50,000 per month while public servants who earned more will receive a 5% salary increase plus an additional $5,000 monthly as of the same date.
In an interview with Stabroek News in May, Finance Minister Winston Jordan had said that the new government was looking to increase public servants’ salaries by 10% in keeping with the APNU+AFC promise in its elections manifesto of a significant hike. The initial increase that was being mentioned for public servants was 20%.