A governing coalition member, the Working People’s Alliance (WPA), yesterday voiced its outrage at the rental of living quarters for Junior Minis-ter of Natural Resources Simona Broomes at a price tag of $500,000 and called for a review of the payment of mega rates for ministers.
“We are alarmed at the news that the government has been paying rent for two government ministers to the tune of $500,000. The WPA cannot in all conscience defend and support government payment of half a million rent for ministers when one places this fact against the 50% rise in salaries that was given in 2015,” WPA executive member Dr. David Hinds told a press conference yesterday.
Recently, the disclosure by Clerk of the National Assembly Sherlock Isaacs of the house rentals for Broomes and Junior Housing Minister Valerie Patterson—ministers who originate from outside of the city—has sparked consternation over the $500,000 ceiling.
Hinds stated that while the party is not against the renting of houses for ministers, it should be done at a rate that is reasonable. “While the WPA does not object to government ministers being compensated at levels befitting the office, we strongly object to super salaries and other compensation that seems to become the norm in Guyana,” he said. “If ministers are being paid healthy salaries, enjoy the usual perks that come with the office and get their rent paid at $500,000 per month, then that amounts to enrichment at the expense of government,” he added.
The executive member told reporters that while the WPA believes that the standard $25,000 housing allowance is inadequate for the ministers, it also believes that the $500,000 ceiling is unreasonable. “It is inexcusable for us to be paying rent for ministers that amounts to six times the salary of average public servants. The party believes that $500,000 is more than unreasonable for the government to be paying so much…It was wrong under the PPP and it cannot be correct now,” he stressed.
Asked whether the party believes that a reduction to the tune of $300,000 would be reasonable, Hinds argued that this rate would also be unreasonable in light of the fact that the ministers are paid high salaries. “It is still too high. It is difficult to talk about a particular figure but what we know is that public servants in this country work for an average of $100,000… we understand that every time we come to talk about teachers’ salaries, public servants salaries, we have to negotiate and we talk about 5% and all of that.” Hinds stated. [It is a] matter of morality. How can you have governors say to the rest of the population we can’t give you 10%, we can only afford a 5%? …How can you in all conscience then turn around and pay a rent for $500,000? These are ministers who have big salaries, they have all kinds of other perks and then on top of that you are paying a half a million dollars for their rent? It is unconscionable,” he further said.
Hinds added that, “our view is that we don’t see why they should not pay their own rent. They are making a lot of money. If you are going to pay a rent at least be reasonable.”