Prime Minister Holness has my confidence
Prime Minister Andrew Holness.

Dear Editor,

I was appalled at the salary increases politicians gave themselves. Whatever the state of the country, it is their doing!

They, unlike the rest of us, have been given power and authority over our resources. They should not benefit more than what they make of it for the rest of us. This, I confess, was my instinctive reaction until I saw the press conference on Monday in which Prime Minister Andrew Holness explained the situation.

The presentation was long but worth watching. He went into details about the compensation review process, explained why it was necessary, and the process used to arrive at the salary. Therefore, I don't share the view of the president of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) John Mahfood that the compensation review programme was not well thought out.

The prime minister laid out a logical case for aligning compensation with accountability. As an executive you should not earn less than the people who report to you and for whom you take responsibility. However, my issue is a moral one. As a leader, your role is more than an executive manager. A leader must identify with the struggles of the people, be close to the people, embody the hopes and aspirations of the people, and be willing to sacrifice for the people. The authority of the leader springs from this place of what is right and just, not what is logical and expedient. I am not surprised that the prime minister's sacrifice would not make sense to Mr Mahfood, who is a businessman.

I retire from the civil service next year, so you can guess my age. I have worked directly with three prime ministers. While I have never met or worked directly with Prime Minister Holness, I am satisfied that more than others before him, he understands the moral dimension of the job. I know others that held his position would have ignored the views of the people and pressed on. I will never forget the comment by one of our erstwhile politicians, suggesting that his Government should not worry about the views of the articulate minority. Holness does seem to worry about what his people feel.

By not taking the salary increase and not taking the sizeable retroactive lump sum, this is not only symbolic, but also a very substantial and meaningful sacrifice for anyone to forgo. Maintaining his current salary places him in a reasonable salary band, closer to the middle, where the sentiment is strongest that their increases were unfairly insufficient. This sacrifice gives him the moral authority to ask the Jamaican people, particularly those who are upset, to support the general compensation restructuring programme and the increases for ministers.

Therefore, for me, he did address my concern about the moral and equitable considerations for those who would have not seen such a material increase in their circumstances as those at the top of the scale.

Ministers, Members of Parliament, and councillors can keep their pay increases. They are, after all, only managers, I don't vote for them, even if their names may appear on a ballot. I vote for the leader of my country, the prime minister.

While it is important that the Government provides good management, I must be convinced that the leader has a good moral compass and regards the conditions of the people; otherwise, the progress of good management may not result in shared prosperity for the people. I must be convinced that the leader will put the people before himself. Prime Minister Holness has demonstrated that via his exemplary leadership and he will have my vote.

Jean Clarke

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