In April 2009, in solidarity with the harsh economic times, then Prime Minister Bruce Golding took a 15 per cent cut in salary with government MPs taking a 10 per cent cut. Simpson Miller refused to take a pay cut and her Opposition colleague MPs equally refused. Further yet, salaries for the few who became advisers/consultants were for the most part nothing to brag about, especially with the arduous work hours that stretched into the wee hours of the morning at times. No wonder the government then achieved so much under difficult circumstances.
Since taking office, the Portia Simpson Miller-led government seems to have taken the highest salaries ever and has so far taken on an army of advisers with high salaries and amazing perks. Her Cabinet is the largest and most expensive, with 20 members costing taxpayers over $110 million per annum. On the other hand, Mr Golding's Cabinet cost taxpayers just under $70 million per annum.
At the adviser/consultant and assistant level, we see the Ministry of Finance with a whopping grand total of 12 on the payroll. And in true form, Dr Phillips told public sector workers in his budget presentation that they can't "break
into an empty shop" and that it "mek no sense to raid an empty cupboard".
With media and civil society largely quiet, and a number of the more prominent commentators who were busy all over media up to the night of December 29, 2012, now on the government payroll, most Jamaicans probably don't know that since the change of administration just over seven months ago, the net international reserves had collapsed by US$600 million, moving from approximately US$2 billion to US$1.4 billion.
But they should know that after the previous government kept the exchange rate stable for two years, since the change of government, the dollar has galloped from US$1 to almost $90, coming from US$1 to $86.30. They should know that inflation is rising from single to double digits; interest rates no longer look stable and business and consumer confidence at all-time lows. Beyond that, an agreement with the International Monetary Fund is at a standstill, with the driver Prime Minister Simpson Miller leaving Jamaica comfortably parked on a train track unable to state clearly to the passengers where she is taking us.
With all that in mind, the prime minister and her government spend taxpayers' scarce dollars lavishly on themselves with high salaries and big perks. Poor us.