Senior financial executive Dennis Chung

SOME Jamaican leaders have dismissed as inconsequential Prime Minister Andrew Holness's decision to give up his salary increase and has instead insisted that focus be placed on ensuring that the political directorate be held to account for the higher salaries they will now receive as part of the Government's compensation review for the public sector.

Following backlash from the public regarding the huge salary increases — in some cases by more than 200 per cent — for politicians, Holness, at a press conference on Monday, said he would not take the increase that would have seen his pay swell to $28.6 million in April 2024. He will remain at his current salary of roughly $9 million and will not, therefore, receive any retroactive payments.

Senior financial executive Dennis Chung told the Jamaica Observer that while he understands the sentiment that would drive the prime Minister to turn down the increase, which is to show that the leadership is listening to the people, "I don't think that it should have been turned down and, in fact, creates another anomaly."

"The prime minister and the Opposition Leader [Mark Golding] should not be on record earning less than the persons that report to them," he said, adding that, "If there was any desire to contribute to charity, then that should have been a private arrangement with no need to publicise it".

Chung's reference was to Golding's announcement last week that he would be giving to charitable causes 80 per cent of his 240 per cent salary increase that would have seen his pay jump to more than $25 million by next April.

Chung said the way in which the salary increases caught the public by surprise is the main issue, arguing that there could have been better communication around it.

"The fact is that, as usual, we have chosen to politicise this and we have forgotten the more relevant arguments that should be made of the need to hold our politicians accountable, the need to also compensate our parliamentarians properly, and the need to reward the entire public sector based on productivity," he said.

Private Sector Organisation (PSOJ) President Metry Seaga also told the Observer that his organisation was more interested in the measures to ensure accountability and labelled the announcements by Holness and Golding as symbolic gestures "from two people who can afford to".

"The PSOJ had asked for the prime minister to put in the necessary measures to ensure accountability and he says those will be done, so we're going to have to take him at his word and make sure that we follow up to ensure and insist that they are actually put in place, and then it's going to be up to the private sector and the citizens of this country to hold our politicians accountable for what they have said they're going to do and for what we expect them to do," he said.

Hotelier Jason Henzell, meanwhile, believes the salary increases are justified "as these persons who serve the country at the highest level make a tremendous sacrifice both professionally and personally, it must be ensured that they are held accountable".

"Quite frankly, the higher the salary that they get is the more persons will expect of them," he said.

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter

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