Are our politicians living in la-la land?
Coming out of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the most honourable thing any prime minister or president of a country could do is furnish a fair wage increase, once it is due, to the public sector workers. It should be an increase given without unions having to bow and be bullied into accepting, or else.
The wanton lack of judgement displayed by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke with an over-the-top, massive pay increase to themselves and fellow parliamentarians has sent shock waves across Jamaica and the Jamaican Diaspora.
This never-before-seen act of barefacedness from a sitting prime minister warrants, and justly so, the recent demonstration by members of the public at Emancipation Park and possibly other forms of protest actions in the days ahead.
Prime Minister Holness rubbed salt in citizens’ wounds when he sought to justify their pay hike by declaring “… the country is not running well”, essentially because the political class is underpaid. This is damning. He didn’t stop there: “The truth is that you get the political leadership that you pay for.” What was even more repulsive was his stating that he seeks to “… attract some of the best talents…” with these hefty increases.
Enter the Opposition. They were “surprised” by the levels of increase but are in support of it. No, no one made this up! Of course, this didn’t help. An enraged public blasted them. Opposition Leader Mark Golding, seeking to do damage control, expressed he would retain 20 per cent of his salary and give 80 per cent to charity and people in need.
But this came a tad too late. An unappeased public was unimpressed.
A comparison between Jamaica and the USA, for example, which boasts a populace of 2.8 million and 334 million, respectively, has Prime Minister Holness receiving US$200,000 and US President Joe Biden US$400,000 annually. It is interesting to note that the US president’s salary was increased to the current amount by Congress in 2001 and prior to this the president’s salary had been locked in at US$200,000 for 30 years.
The UK has a population of 68 million and its prime minister receives a salary of US$160,000 annnually, while Canada, with a population of 39 million, pays its prime minister US$265,000.
One is not begrudging anyone a pay increase, but our politicians are in la-la land if they didn’t expect prolonged disgust and upset from the people. This should not be a nine-day wonder. They should be held accountable.
Fix it, Mr Prime Minister. Fix it.