Guidelines from progressive businesses, government organisations and NGOs should be used for setting pay and benefits for politicians

Dear Editor,

For some time now the media has been reporting continuing controversy, animosity and friction regarding the compensation (ie, the pay, benefits such as health and retirement and related working conditions) payable or allowable or claimed/received by people holding ‘political’ office for themselves and their families. The recent exposure about payments for health-related benefits has again brought this matter to a head and appears to be detracting from the more urgent and critical issues that should be engaging our attention, especially in this crucial electioneering period.

It is interesting to note the comment reportedly made by Mr David Granger, Leader of the APNU-AFC coalition, about the need for “systemic policy and guidelines to be structured” and hopefully implemented equitably. In that context I wish to suggest serious consideration of the virtually standard, universal practices derived from the discipline of Human Resource Management and practised in progressive businesses, governmental and non-governmental organizations including the United Nations, in all of which fields I have been fortunate to have had some hands-on experience as a Human Resource practitioner and advisor.

Briefly and simply put, these guidelines/practices require the entity to take the following steps independently or in consultation with stakeholders, such as trade unions or staff or employers’ organizations where they exist (or in the case of political/governmental entities the opposition elements etc):

  • Decide if the entity will base its compensation content and level on what is applicable among the leaders, or say top quartile or average, etc, in the relevant field (eg, private sector, public sector, government, NGOs, etc). For example, in the case of the UN, it is typically based on what is applicable in the US civil service with ‘post adjustments’ made for five different categories of location depending on certain obvious variations.
  • Periodic surveys are done to ensure continuing relevance/comparability; on this basis adjustments are made.
  • Adjustments are sometimes also necessary due to significant changes beyond the control of the individual entity, eg, significant changes in the cost of living, fortunes of the entity such as affordability and market influences, etc.

It goes without saying that once public, transparent and objective bases are established and strictly followed by and for all concerned, the room for abuse, acrimony, friction, dissatisfaction and public controversy will be considerably reduced so that our energies and attention can be better utilized for our collective good.

Of course, the foregoing ignores another quite relevant consideration which has to do with the fundamental question: Should people like politicians expect, seek, demand compensation like regular employees? Are they not civic, public-spirited people who, at least initially, ‘volunteer’, freely offer their services, as servants of the public who are motivated by the noble desire to serve the populace and the country from a position and platform of pure patriotism, love of country, of fellow citizens who ‘need’ their leadership and public service, etc; ie, from a position of altruism , not selfishness?

Yours faithfully,

Nowrang Persaud

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