The recent announcement by the Government that MPs, councillors and ministers will see a more than 100 per cent increase in their salaries has elicited much discussion. On the one hand, we have people who say the increase is odious, especially compared to what public sector workers received. They view it as a moral blight that our politicians are taking home, in some cases, a 200 per cent increase while teachers and nurses have to make do with 20 per cent increases.
On the other hand, we have people who seem to mimic the PM and other politicians in their defence of the move. They correctly point to the fact that what was on offer was not nearly enough when compared to the private sector with comparable jobs while also noting that the increase will now allow for better representatives as they will feel more comfortable entering the political arena.
I understand why the PM and his ilk are getting this increase, their salaries being tied to other civil servants, and them not seeing a wage increase in years. I can understand the drive for this, I am not blind after all.
However, understanding does not mean I agree. On the contrary, in my estimation, they deserve nothing.
The fact of the matter is, no one from the Government or Opposition will say which of their MPs is the bum, they refuse to name the culprits who — past and present — have been nincompoops with no qualifications because every Parliament and Cabinet has been made up of some of the best and brightest.
But that is just the beginning of why they do not deserve the increase.
Our political representatives have failed at their primary job as MPs and councillors. This can be seen by simply travelling around the country, each parish. People unhoused, living in dilapidated settlements, hunger stalking the land, the many garrisons or one-party zones are living proof that our politicians have failed to perform their duties according to the colonial Westminster system we have inherited and which they seem to be firmly wedded to.
Apart from possibly two MPs, the remaining 61 have failed to lobby for their constituents and as such are already undeserving of this increase.
Another straw man those in favour of the salary increase cling to is that many Caribbean nations pay their MPs and PM at a comparable level to the new salaries. This, in my eyes, is a disingenuous argument. Yes, Barbados, The Bahamas, etc pay their leaders more, but those countries, even as they experience shocks such as a sharp increase in criminality and a global economic downturn, still see their citizens earning much more than what one can earn in Jamaica. With such weak per capita income, meaning we the people are broke by and large, can we honestly say they deserve this increase?
The Government’s reasoning makes little sense the further you drill into it. Are they saying that they are a cut above the rest and therefore deserve this increase, or is it a case of teachers and firefighters just not being worthy of a substantial increase?
In their rush to soothe hurt feelings, they make mistakes contradicting previous utterances. Now we are told that a good salary attracts the best, but these same people expect teachers, qualified mathematicians, to survive on what is now offered and chastise them with an all too willing media machine if they dare remind people, they have been holding strain for over 20 years.
There is a reason the majority oppose this move and it is largely down to a lack of trust. Yes, politicians were poorly paid, this is not news. The question must be why, if it is such a poorly paid profession, do people line up and fight each other for one of the 63 seats? People are not silly and see politicians engaging in corruption, cronyism, backroom dealing and all manner of ills and have decided that they want nothing to do with them. If you want the criticism to end, work for the people.
However, even in the darkest moments there is a comedy if you look hard enough. It must not be lost on us that before this increase the Government along with sycophants in the media bashed the public sector workers labelling them as greedy and unwilling to be held to account. The monster, that is a public who views public sector workers as leeches which the Government lovingly created, has now turned around to scare the creator of this abomination. It is almost as if it were scripted by Mary Shelly on a dark and stormy night.
That the Government have been forced to at least explain why they did this shows the untapped potential a united people have. That they come with lame excuses and examples like Barbados, Singapore and The Bahamas, countries which have far less corruption than Jamaica and are many times wealthier and stricter in the enforcement of laws than Jamaica, shows us this was not thought through beyond we haven’t had a raise in decades.
We have parties that have failed to represent the people, parties which have let constituencies rot and the social contract deteriorate. No one trusts these politicians or the parties and if we were to act as the private sector does, none of them would have jobs, ranging from the PM to the feckless and toothless leader of the opposition, both of whom represent constituencies where some people live in slums.
I am not opposed to an increase in wages, but performance must come before a wage increase, that’s just good business practice, something this Administration has been pressing. If they want this major increase they must put in the work, doing it in the communities and listening to the people who elect them.
People are slowly waking up, seeing the dictatorial approach for what it is and this has not helped the Government and those in power in calming the concerns of the people. The pay increase is complete. Those in power have seen it through, but at what cost to them? For, as they go home with more money, we see people seeing politicians for what they are: a group which makes the rules but does not follow them and is a good primer for radical, root and branch change.