You are here
Challenges In Increasing Mps Salaries
The recent recommendation from a consultant at the parliamentary seminar in Tobago last week for the salaries of parliamentarians to be increased has been met with mixed responses. The reality is that unless a parliamentarian is a minister, the job is basically a part-time one.
The salary is essentially one that reflects the part-time recognition by the Salaries Review Commission of the job of a parliamentarian. There is no recognition of the reality of representing the needs of constituents who require full-time service from part-time officials.
This disconnect has existed in our political system ever since independence and has contributed to so much criticism about the performance of MPs and their representation of their constituencies. The measurement of the performance of duty of MPs is difficult to assess.
Not every elected parliamentarian is able to command a television crew, from any given media house, to follow them on any day of the week, to show them in action on the seven o’clock news. Often, comments are made about MPs to the effect that they have not done anything for their constituencies. Sometimes, such comments are made without knowledge of the actual situations. Such is public life.
The reality is that the job of an elected parliamentarian is one in which they control no public-money vote, to undertake any type of work in their constituencies, but rather must make representations to government ministries and departments, state enterprises and local government agencies in order to get their job done.
Outside of that, they also have their legislative duties to perform, whereby they are required to attend sittings of Parliament to debate and vote on measures. Those parliamentarians who are senators do not have constituency duties and they are able to carry a lighter workload. Perhaps, the heaviest workload is the one borne by elected parliamentarians who are ministers. They have to service their constituencies, perform their legislative duties and carry out their ministerial functions.
Any recommendation to increase the salaries of elected parliamentarians ought to permit political parties to attract quality candidates for general elections, if the recommendation is implemented. However, there needs to be consideration of value for money, as far as recesses and the prorogation of Parliament is concerned. Parliament is intended to operate on the basis of sittings once a week, because the legislative agenda cannot sustain sittings from Monday to Friday every week.
Occasionally, sittings of either House may take place more than once a week. Committees have been plagued over the years by absences and difficulty, in some cases, to get a quorum, although this has changed in recent times. Party caucuses control the speaking and voting behaviour patterns of legislators in the name of party discipline.
Unless we are going to move to a system that will promote higher standards of performance from legislators by reforming the Constitution to permit full-time work, these proposed pay and allowance increases cannot be justified for those legislators who are not ministers or presiding officers of the houses of Parliament.
At a time when the society is engaged in various debates about wages and salaries, such increases for part-time work will have their challenges. The discussion that surrounds the desire for a full-time parliamentarian, must take into account the fact that such full-time service will require persons who live on emolument income to resign their jobs in order to take up office.
For those who are professionals (doctors, attorneys, etc), it is easier to retain one’s professional practice and perform the full-time duties than it would be to hold on to full-time employment and be expected to perform the full-time tasks of an elected parliamentarian.
The absence of any security of tenure will make it difficult, in a society like ours, to encourage persons to stand for election with the knowledge that if they win, they will be required to resign their substantive jobs wherever they are. If the desire is to make the job of the elected parliamentarian a full-time one, then there will have to be a fundamental measure of constitutional reform to allow the Parliament to become independent of the executive branch. In this way, parliamentarians will be able to set their meeting dates independent of the wishes of the Cabinet, and also set their own agenda.
This issue of the full-time parliamentarian has to be balanced against the issue of fixed dates for elections, and the right of recall that was included in the People’s Partnership manifesto. Currently, a term of office could last anywhere from one day to five-years-and-three-months.
Having full-time parliamentarians in a system where there is no certainty about the length of one’s term is difficult for anyone to take a chance with their career. Those persons who served under two Manning administrations (1991-1995) and (2007-2010), as well as the Panday administration (2000–2001), will know only too well the hardships that they suffered because of an early dissolution and loss of power. There is little sympathy for a defeated candidate in our society.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.