Do they deserve more?

Do they deserve more?

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

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Dear Editor,

Once again the argument that Members of Parliament (MP) should get a pay raise is back on the agenda. However, the question that many of us are asking is: Do they actually deserve it?

I can bet that many people will instinctively say no. However, if one were to seriously think about this matter, we would all agree that our MPs are paid dirt cheap. And, in an age where the needs of the people they serve are ever increasing, it can well be argued that it is about time they do get a substantial increase.

But in Jamaica, where civil servants can't get big increases, I rather suspect that raising MPs' pay would so open the floodgates that no sensible Government would ever contemplate to do it.

But there are creative ways that can be found to boost the MP to be in a position to meet the needs of the people. Expand the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) to twice the amount that it is currently at, in the first instance; and broaden the scope of how that money can be spent. The current scope is highly restrictive.

At the same time, the fees that MPs pay to government agencies to implement works under the CDF need to be taken over by central government or abolished. It can't be that if an MP has five different projects going through five different agencies that fees are attached to all. That's rubbish! Those fees could be used to assist needy people further. Also, the MP must be given a greater say in how that money should be spent.

Secondly, a serious look should be taken at empowering the local councillors. One of the reasons MPs get so burdened down is that councillors don't have the resources to address the needs of the people in a big way, so they keep referring people to the MP. More money should be pumped through the councils to the councillors so they can address more needs of the people and alleviate the mounting stresses on the MPs, which would allow them to concentrate on the more serious issues. An MP should not have to be paying for every single back-to-school assistance request. Councillors should be taking care of at least half of that. Same thing with burial assistance. While councils have programmes to help with that, let's be clear, it's woefully short when the price of funerals are looked at. MPs are the ones who have to chip in.

We need to rethink how we deal with funding in this country. Simple things can be done to help out. We don't have to reinvent the entire wheel. Fix a couple of broken spokes and the wheel will run better.

Fabian Lewis

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