Government is not a private business
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Dear Editor,

Some issues in the public sector, like compensation, will raise questions and feed into heightened levels of distrust of politicians by the public. It is clear that these topics will not disappear from public discussion and media anytime soon.

Since Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke announced the massive increases, the debate and protests continue. No one will deny that Members of Parliament (MPs) and ministers deserve reasonable compensation, but everything is relative. We cannot compare private sector with public sector salaries as former Prime Minister Bruce Golding attempted to do to justify the increases.

Private sector workers are recruited through competitive searches and not through elections. Profitability is the main focus of private entities (unlike government) and private sector employees drive profitability. Those who enter politics, for the most part, are driven by public service plus the perks and profile which come with these positions. Politicians should be adequately paid, but so should the police, teachers, nurses, public servants, etc, and this is the main point. You can't justify increases for one group and be arbitrarily dismissive of the other.

It is unacceptable that a prime minister in Jamaica should be earning as little as US$100,000 in 2023. At the same time, our prime minister should not be earning close to what a UK prime minister earns, which would be the case after the increase. The scope of responsibilities, including budget, size of country, and gross domestic product (GDP), are vastly different. The prime minister also receive many benefits. These things must be placed in context when attempting to justify the massive increases.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (Photo: AFP)

There should also be proper communication to avoid ambiguities which feed into negative stereotypes and distrust. Under the Westminster model, the UK prime minister's salary is comprised of two parts, almost equal, the MP component and the prime minister component. Compensation should be fair for those who serve in both capacities as MPs and ministers.

Arguing that 100-300 per cent reflects a market adjustment is ridiculous. It is also absurd that the Jamaican governor general's salary will now be on par with salary of the Canadian governor general when Canada's population is 13 times bigger than Jamaica's. The role and responsibilities are significantly different.

In the end, it is always about the money. If we follow the money, we will find some of the answers to the many questions about Jamaica's complex problems, such as why a country as rich and multifaceted as ours has one of the lowest GDPs per capita in the Caribbean.

P Chin

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