Wrong move, Prime Minister
Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness insists that the Government was correct in its overhaul of public sector salaries, including massive increases for elected politicians who, historically, have been shamefully underpaid.

As indicated previously in this space, despite the ugly flaws — not least numerous discrepancies and anomalies that have triggered anger and resentment for many public servants — this newspaper agrees with the prime minister.

We strongly believe that those responsible for running Jamaica's affairs, including elected officials, should be paid in line with the importance of their duties and, equally should be held strictly to account by the public they have chosen to serve.

While there should be no excuse for stealing from taxpayers, there is no doubt that substandard pay can trigger temptation for public officials, elected or otherwise.

Furthermore, we agree with the Government's reasoning that attractive salaries for the "political class" can attract highly qualified young people who may currently feel the urge to serve but are compelled to do otherwise because of existing economic realities.

This newspaper believes strongly that elected politics should not be restricted to only those who are materially blessed. We believe the child of a cane cutter, domestic helper, et al, should have equal opportunity and motivation to serve as the elect of the people, without having to fear he/she will end up in debtors' jail.

Central to the discussion, Mr Holness told us at Monday evening's press conference that "[T]his compensation review is the most objective evaluation we've had of jobs in the public sector. It is the most objective pegging of jobs proximate to market value that we've had…"

Why then choose to refuse the increase which falls to the prime minister's office even as Cabinet colleagues and other Members of Parliament are free to accept?

As it is, we are told Mr Holness will now be the lowest-paid member of the elected parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives.

The prime minister says his decision was driven by the desire to satisfy "an expectation that politicians must show solidarity with the suffering of the people", including, of course, those public servants now angry and resentful.

We think the prime minister is kidding himself if he truly believes the majority of Jamaicans will interpret his decision to forego the increase as anything more than a public relations exercise — something resembling a tit for tat with Opposition Leader Mr Mark Golding, who says he is giving away 80 per cent of his.

We think Mr Holness would've been better off standing by the principle of market value.

That said, the Government must now move fast to tidy up in the face of what we recognise is the dangerous disrespect with which the political class is viewed.

A way must be found to deal with the reported anomalies and discrepancies that have caused so much discontent.

Crucially, promised accountability measures, including formal job descriptions for ministers and MPs, a code of ethics governing MPs, and penalties for those failing to measure up, must come into play.

Thought should also be given to developing an independent, objective method of timely adjustment of salaries for elected officials, without them being accused of rewarding themselves.

Jamaicans shouldn't have to pass this way again.

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