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JAM | May 17, 2023

Send in the cleaning crews, Parliament stinks of hypocrisy

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

Reading Time: 4 minutes
The headquarters of Jamaica’s Parliament, Gordon House in downtown Kingston. (Photo: Twitter @PressSecOPMJA)

In textbook political fashion, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke committed the ultimate betrayal for civil servants of this country, as he announced substantial salary increases for the political directorate.

If you’ve missed it, then you will be pleased to know that the directorate—from the prime minister at the executive administrative level to councillors at the local government level—will enjoy anywhere between 60 per cent and 360 per cent rise in their salaries effective April 1, 2022, to again climb in April 2023 and April 2024.


Clarke, seemingly justifying the pay bump in the House of Representatives yesterday (May 16), claimed was necessary as senior salary scales across the political directorate were “the furthest away from market”.

Citing analysis from Kingston-based accounting consultants Ernst & Young, which the Government contracted for the public sector restructuring exercise, Clarke added, “this is consistent with anecdotal evidence and has been a significant problem that has cost the country”.

The minister also suggested that current salaries did little to ‘retain quality leaders or attract top talent’, putting the entire viability of the political directorate “in jeopardy”.

“We have to be able to attract new blood into the leadership levels of the public sector to infuse new ways of thinking, new ideas for the organisation’s own growth and development; and we also need to attract persons to leadership whether those persons are internal to the organisation,” he said.

“For internal persons, outside of their own ambitions, they need to see that stepping up to leadership is worthwhile and for external prospects, they too need to see that making a transition is worthwhile to step into leadership in public organisations…without putting their economic security at risk,” added Clarke.

Members of Parliament in Gordon House, in Kingston. (Photo: JIS)

Okay. So I should preface this by acknowledging the minister is entitled to his musings, and the argument made is totally fine.

Ironically, just two days ago, I was caught up in a conversation on Twitter where Jamaicans were discussing Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ salary, which stood at J$9.1 million as of April 2021.

From that exchange, I can conclude that the average Jamaican isn’t against pay increases, as at the time, Twitter users mostly agreed that his salary was low compared to other leaders across the Caribbean.

The problem, however, is for months, minister, you repeatedly insisted that Government ‘did not have more’ to offer civil servants.

My, how quickly that reality has changed.

You were most happy to waltz into Parliament on March 21 to boast that 95 per cent of civil servants accepted the Government’s terms, which capped salary increases at 20 per cent over the next three years.

Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr Nigel Clarke, delivers the closing 2023/24 Budget Debate presentation in the House of Representatives, on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (Photo: JIS)

Leading up to this, much of the country was stuck in a revolving wheel of chaos as teachers went on strike, and the situation could have easily worsened with the nation’s police and nurses being restive themselves.

So you mean to tell me, you staved off disaster only to first announce sizeable salary bumps for the judiciary just last week, and yesterday, for the political directorate?

Where is the equity you spoke so passionately about eight weeks ago, minister?

Frankly, you have lost the plot and no explanation can justify such a massive pay adjustment.

This new development is a stab in the back to the 105,000 civil servants you estimated work in the public sector. There is such a nasty, self-serving pattern emanating from this administration where leaders feign understanding to later insult hard-working Jamaicans.

Oh, and let us not pretend that life in this country is easy.

Inflation has been clobbering spending power for months, bills are increasingly harder to manage, and some citizens are making the conscious decision to skip meals just to make ends meet—all while salaries remain little changed.

(Photo: Beaches.com)

Mind you, this is also the same Jamaica which has the second-lowest GDP-per-capital level in the Caribbean behind conflict-torn Haiti.

It is hard to look at a man or woman and say ‘Be satisfied with crumbs’ when you own the bakery, but of course, politicians, being the two-sided cutlasses they are, like to eat their cake and have it too…

Okay fine. I’ll bite.

The political directorate has now decided to, in some cases, double its pay. Will the public, which you lot repeatedly beg for power every four-five years, finally get some accountability?

Wishful thinking, since key performance indicators (KPIs) do not exist for ministers, but will officials get the boot when they do not meet the standards of the people or will we keep shifting them around to superministries?

Surely, now that the political directorate is being compensated at “market value”, corruption will be a distant memory in Jamaica, yes?

Retaining ‘quality leadership’, as brought forward by the astute minister, is questionable at best, looking at the median age of parliamentarians. I, for one, do not see this trend changing any time soon.

But here’s to hope, I suppose.


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