Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Monday said that he will not accept the salary increase granted to him under the public sector compensation review, stating that, as leader of the country, he has a duty to show solidarity with Jamaicans who are experiencing economic hardships.
He also announced a minimal reshuffle of the Cabinet, cutting one ministry, while pulling into the executive new Senator Dr Dana Morris Dixon as minister without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) responsible for skills and digital transformation.
Additionally, the prime minister said that job descriptions and performance evaluations, which were previously drafted, will be immediately implemented for the political directorate.
Holness and his Government have been taking heavy flak over massive salary increases granted to Cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament (MPs) and parish councillors.
The increases, which range as high as 200 per cent, were announced in Parliament last Tuesday by Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke. At the time, the Opposition stated that it took no issue with the new salaries. However, by the next morning it issued a release objecting to the increases.
On Monday, during a news conference streamed from Jamaica House, Holness reiterated the Administration's argument that the improved salaries will attract talent to the public sector.
"There are many Jamaicans who understand the bigger picture of having an incentive-compatible system, where jobs — as assessed by their responsibility, skills and time — are paid proximate to market, and where responsibilities align with compensation," the prime minister said.
"Such systems usually attract the best talents, and benefit greatly from innovation and productivity. This 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," he insisted.
"The process, though objective, has yielded increases for ministers which, again, though commensurate to their roles and duties, [are] considered unfair relative to adjustments of other groups," Holness said.
"This springs from a historic distrust of the political class and a deep belief that some politicians are only looking out for themselves. Quite apart from the skills and efforts they bring to the job and the responsibilities they bear, for which they should be compensated, there is also an expectation that politicians must show solidarity with the suffering of the people. Given the stage of the development of our democracy, these feelings should not be ignored," he said.
Arguing that there is need for an efficient compensation system that aligns compensation with effort and responsibility, Holness said that, nevertheless, it is important that the country is assured that its leader, symbolically and truthfully, understands citizens' concerns.
"As your leader, I do. Therefore, I have directed the Transformation Implementation Unit to remove the prime minister's compensation from the new salary scale. The prime minister's compensation will therefore remain at it's previous level. To be clear, no retroactive payments will apply to the prime minister's pay," he said.
The adjustments had the prime minister's salary moving from the current $9.169 million as at 2021, to $22.332 million with effect April 1, 2022, then to $25.267 effective April 2023, after which it would rise to $28.58 million effective April 2024.
The deputy prime minister's pay will move from the current $8.031 million as at April 2021, to $25.729 million effective April 2024.
The finance minister's salary will move from the current $7.440 million as at April 2021 to $24.585 million effective April 2024.
Cabinet ministers will continue to earn $52.00 more than the maximum salary of permanent secretaries, moving from $6.893 million in 2021 to to $22.87 million effective April 2024.
Meanwhile, MPs will see their current salary of $4.331 million move to $11.077 million effective April 1, 2022, then to $12.532 million effective April 2023, then increase to $14.179 million with effect from April 1, 2024.
Asked if his Cabinet ministers will accept the new salaries Holness said yes, adding that he is encouraging them to take it as he genuinely believes "it will improve governance in the country".
His decision to not accept the new salary means that he will be paid less than all members of the House of Representatives.
Holness also said that written job descriptions for ministers and MPs, which were already in place, will be tabled in Parliament shortly.
He said a code of ethics to govern the conduct and duties of MPs, which was already developed under the PJ Patterson Administration, has been enhanced and presented to him. It will be reviewed at the next Cabinet meeting and turned over to Parliament for review and eventual implementation.
Also to be implemented are financial penalties for unexcused absences from sittings of Parliament and committee meetings. At the same time, each MP will be required to provide a written accountability report to Parliament detailing activities undertaken and achievements. These will be reviewed by a special committee.
Additionally, special training courses for MPs are to be designed and they must complete a certain number of hours and become certified in the parliamentary procedures.
Turning to the long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle, Holness said Senator Morris Dixon's focus on skills and digital transformation is designed to ensure that the country develops people with the type of technical skills needed in government.
Robert Nesta Morgan remains in the OPM and will continue to manage the information portfolio.
Homer Davis will continue as minister of state in the OPM.
Holness remains head of the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, where Everald Warmington will continue overseeing the works portfolio, while Matthew Samuda continues managing climate change, water and other areas assigned by Holness.
Dr Horace Chang remains as national security minister and will be supported by new minister of state Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn.
Mining has been added to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries now headed by Floyd Green with Frank Witter as minister state.
Olivia "Babsy" Grange retains the reins of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.
The Ministry of Education continues to be headed by Fayval Williams, who will have Marsha Smith as minister of state.
Dr Nigel Clarke remains Minister of Finance, with Zavier Mayne as minister of state.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade continues to be headed by Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, who will be supported by Alando Terrelonge as state minister.
Dr Christopher Tufton continues to head the Ministry of Health and Wellness, while Senator Aubyn Hill remains minister of industry, investment and commerce.
The Ministry of Justice continues to be headed by Delroy Chuck, and Marlene Malahoo Forte remains head of the Ministry of Legal and Constitutional Affairs.
Desmond McKenzie is retained as Minister of Local Government, while the transport portfolio has been added to the Ministry of Science, Energy, and Telecommunications headed by Daryl Vaz, who now has JC Hutchinson as minister of state.
There is no change at the Ministry of Tourism, headed by Ed Bartlett, while Pearnel Charles Jr, who was the agriculture minister, now leads the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, with Norman Dunn as his minister of state.
After naming the Cabinet Holness thanked Karl Samuda, who up to last Friday was minister of labour and social security, and Audley Shaw, who was minister of transport and mining, for their contribution to Jamaica.