Saturday, February 24, 2018

Parliamentarians deserve better pay packages

It is amazing to see the type of responses to the debate on the judges Salaries and Pension (Amendment) Bill and the Retiring Allowances (Legislative Service) Bill before the parliament.

As an individual involved in both the private and public sector, I would say the Salaries Review Commission has a lot more work to do given its mandate. The Government is also at fault for lumping the components of these bills together for debate.

We operate under the Westminster system and therefore the model requires a separation of powers among the judiciary, legislature and the executive. However, I believe a major cause of this confusion is having the judiciary lumped together with the legislature as the bills are presented together for review in the Parliament.

I share the view of most—talk-show hosts, political analysts, the man on the street and others—that the package given to the Chief Justice needs to be reviewed. This is so because being able to walk out of your job and receive a pension and other benefits equivalent to your current salary may be a dis-incentive to work.

The country may find itself having empty benches from time to time or having to look for a Chief Justice more often than usual because after a short term in office he can live the same lifestyle without having to work.

Most experts and experienced people in either the Parliament or the judiciary state they have no issue with the bill in principle.

However, there are some weak arguments being advanced in relation to opinions on what functions MPs carry out and how those functions should be measured in terms of the implementation of a comprehensive job description and performance-management system. The SRC has failed to produce these items to date, a job description is still outstanding and the commission acknowledges that MP packages have to be reviewed but are dragging their feet on the issue.

I have personally observed the hardships faced by MPs after their party has lost an election and they leave office. Firstly note that our electoral system operates with party politics and therefore during heavily competitive election campaigns when parties or members of political parties are accused of corruption, the party suffers. The negative public perception is therefore carried individually by all MPs serving at that time. The effect is that the MP becomes unemployable in most instances. There are even cases where MPs have left the country to seek employment in other countries.

When we put all this in context legislators must be properly compensated and after serving a term of four years onwards a pension option is only reasonable given the scope of their job and the expectations placed on these elected public officials.

Imagine the Chairman of the SRC, who holds a part-time position, has a salary close to an MP who is expected to be available at all times to serve his constituents.

Ronald Huggins

St Joseph