Senator backs call to increase pay of MPs

Senator backs call to increase pay of MPs

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

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Parliamentary Secretary Senator Robert Morgan is adding his voice to those who have recently called for an increase in the salaries paid to Members of Parliament (MPs).

According to the Government senator, who is expected to be named to contest the Clarendon North Central constituency for the Jamaica Labour Party in the next general election, the emoluments offered to MPs must be improved as part of efforts to attract quality Jamaicans to representational politics.

In a wide-ranging interview yesterday, Morgan, who is eyeing a move from the Upper House to the Lower House through the Clarendon North Central seat, told the Jamaica Observer that he also supports a tightening of the rules so that action can be taken swiftly against any MP who might be involved in corrupt activities.

“Yes MPs are underpaid and the reality of it is that the demands that constituents place on a MP, based on the realities of politics, leaves MPs in a very disadvantageous position. I know many MPs who are retired and who are suffering because the pension is not much,” said Morgan as he scoffed at critics who say no one forced them to enter representational politics.

“If you are trying to entice the best of your country to participate in the governance of the country, then you must compensate them accordingly. It is very difficult to ask someone with a family to give up employment opportunities in the private sector for the salaries now paid to MPs,” added Morgan.

He argued that with the pay that MPs get there could be persons in their ranks who could be tempted into corruption.

“There are some persons who may not be of a strong moral character and, because of their challenges financially, may be susceptible to various things. In other countries like Singapore or Barbados, they pay their legislators well and if the legislators breach the rules, the laws are there, very strong and robust to get rid of them,” said Morgan.

“I think if we are really serious about improving the governance of the country we need to pay MPs properly while holding them accountable for the public funds that they have custody of,” declared Morgan.

MPs on both sides of the House recently joined forces in a demand for better pay. Leading the charge was the MP for St Catherine North Western Robert Pickersgill, who noted that over the years there have been several recommendations to improve the salaries and pension coverage of parliamentarians without success.

“The time has come, in my opinion, Mr Speaker, for us to, as I said, take the bull by the horn and settle these long outstanding issues regarding emoluments, pension, and health benefits for parliamentarians,” said Pickersgill to applause from both sides of the House.

“I am proposing that a negotiating committee consisting of the speaker, the leader of Government business and his deputy, and the leader of Opposition business and his deputy, be established to negotiate with the minister of finance on issues of welfare for MPs,” added Pickersgill.

He was supported by MP for Kingston Central Ronald Thwaites who argued that parliamentarians have become hostages to their own self-contempt.

“It is time to stop that. No other public servant takes a loss as a result of his or her public service,” said Thwaites.

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