Not so fast, Prime Minister!
Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Dear Editor,

As a public sector worker who was granted a small wage increase over a three-year period, I am outraged at the over 200 per cent wage increase granted to members of the political directorate.

The prime minister, ministers of government, Members of Parliament, mayors, and councillors are now among the highest paid set of political representatives in the entire Caribbean! The recent salary increase puts our political representatives way above that of the political directorate in The Bahamas, Trinidad, and Barbados, despite all these countries performing better than us, in terms of per capita income.

To add insult to injury, the prime minister justified the increase in salaries as a way to attract and retain brilliant minds in politics. If the prime minister is desirous of attracting competent people to politics, why has he not taken steps to implement stronger systems of accountability in government as well as his political party?

Even the calling of local government elections to hold local representatives accountable to the people have been resisted and refused for political expediency. How can we believe the prime minister that he wants better people in government when he retains Everald Warmington in his Cabinet after he openly referred to a citizen of Jamaica as chink, fly, and ticks! If the prime minister were serious about quality representation and decency in government, Warmington should have been sacked.

I am no enemy of the Government or the Jamaica Labour Party; however, it surprises me that the prime minister wants to retain the best and brightest in politics with increased salaries. In all my years of following politics, I have never seen or heard of anyone wanting to leave politics because of poor salary.

Through major sicknesses, election losses, demotion, and old age, all the politicians I know and follow don't willingly leave politics. Can the prime minister tell us who are the politicians that have taken early retirement? Where is the high attrition rate in politics, Mr Prime Minister? Teachers, nurses, and police are leaving in droves and should be properly compensated in order to retain and attract them, not politicians!

It can't be right that public sector workers endure years of wage freeze and single-digit salary adjustments and the political directorate comes out at the end of all the major sacrifices made and takes on to itself the highest portion of the wage increase.

I believe the prime minister has squandered a lot of political capital and goodwill by exercising poor political judgement. It will be difficult for the Government to inspire, motivate, and encourage confidence in the public sector for re-election.

If the prime minister believes monetary reward is an incentive to attract the best and brightest minds into politics, he is not only wrong, but misinformed. Every research finding that I know has corruption and cronyism as the number one disincentive to enter politics.

There needs to be greater focus on what politics is originally intended to do and who are best suited to serve. There needs to be greater focus on love for country and a passion for public service within the political directorate. For a poor country like Jamaica, the wage increase to the political directorate is insensitive and unjust, especially given the fact that public sector workers have seen only a combined salary increase of 25 per cent and the source of payment is coming from the same purse that pays the political directorate.

There is an old proverb which says "Time is longer than rope"; however, I would encourage the prime minister to clean up the corruption in politics and he will see increased interest from people who are honest, competent, and passionate about public service.

The political directorate deserves a decent salary, but not the massive salary increases announced. It can't be just about money and status.

Andre A O Wellington

Dean of discipline

Alston High School

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