Friday, 19 May 2023 12:55

PM: Political class treated with schizophrenia, disdain

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FACED with stinging criticisms over the massive salary increases granted to members of the political directorate, Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Wednesday launched a counter-offensive as he fired back at critics.

According to Holness, members of his Cabinet did not push for an increase and deliberated and agonised over whether they should even take a pay hike and they accepted the increase knowing that there would be pushback and political fallout.

"I want you to understand that as the steward that you elect, I don't go there to argue for myself," said Holness at a celebration to mark the anniversary of the 100th birthday of former Prime Minister Hugh Shearer at National Heroes' Park on Thursday.

"We know and respect the sensitivities over salaries, so we did not go out as a Government and try to say to the country that everybody is getting basically a 20 per cent increase in their salaries as a base in the compensation review," added Holness as he shied away from stating the level of increases granted to different groups.

Members of the political directorate have seen their salaries moving up by more than 200 per cent over the next two years and several groups and individuals have described the increases as vulgar and insensitive.

But Holness argued that there is a false sense being created that somehow only one class of people have received substantial increases under the compensation review programme.

He said his Administration is addressing the major issues which other administrations have been afraid to tackle in the past.

"There is a sense in Jamaica that we must not take on new challenges, that we must not be deliberate in challenging the old norms and ways of thinking. Any time you try to do something different, any time you try to take on those things that have fundamentally defined our failures as a country, there is a choir that comes out very loudly to say leave things as they were," said Holness.

"None of those persons who are being very critical of this Government that has taken on the great challenges that have dogged us as a nation…none of them can point to anything that they have done that can come even close to what this Government has done.

"We do not leave the development of this country to chance. We have a healthy respect and fear of the power of the Jamaican people and the electorate but that doesn't mean we must not confront the Jamaican people and say that the things that you have thought were important for so long and you voted according to that, that those things have never put you in a better position," added Holness as he pointed to the measures that his Administration has introduced including the new Road Traffic Act.

Holness said his Administration is introducing measures for the long-term future of Jamaica despite the critics.

The prime minister argued that the public sector compensation review will attract more Jamaicans to the political and leadership roles.

"What has plagued us for many years as a country…is that we have treated the political class with schizophrenia and disdain. The truth is you get the political leadership that you pay. The truth is that you get the quality of governance that you elect.

"You know what is going to happen as a result in the increase in pay…all of a sudden the best talents that would have overlooked politics, that would have migrated," argued Holness as he pointed to a bright young man who said he would not enter politics because he could not see an economic future in that profession.

The prime minister said not only will the new compensation packages attract talented Jamaicans to politics but those who are presently active will have to step up their game because of the competition.