Cabinet Minister Franklin Khan says parliamentarians are not seeking any pay hike at this time, but the issue is coming up because the Salaries Review Commission had begun its review of the salaries.
He made the comment in a brief interview during yesterday's senate tea break at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, in response to a T&T Guardian story yesterday about the review.
Khan said he did not like the "sense in the media implying that parliamentarians are seeking a salary increase." He said there were no proposals for the hike and it was not imminent. He insisted, however, that the issue was still in process.
"We do not know what the consultants will recommend. They were just getting a feel for the work we actually do. They were mostly talking to the parliamentary staff."
He said the consultants wanted to how many committees exist, how often they meet and whether parliamentarians were part-time or full-time workers. The existing MP salaries are based on the concept that their work is part-time, he added. He said a consultant was employed by the SRC as it began to do its work in this process.
Asked if the Government had a position on whether pay hikes for parliamentarians should be pursued in the wake of existing economic conditions in the country, Khan said, "The Government has no position on that right now."
Khan, who is the Minister of Rural Development and Local Government, said the SRC "has the sole jurisdiction to propose remuneration for certain categories of state sector employees, including councillors, MPs, ministers, permanent secretaries and other senior public officials."
He said during a meeting last week, the consultant was seeking information from those assembled, including parliamentary staff, about the possible pay hike.
"The consultants were consulting," he added.
Khan said no follow-up meetings were scheduled with parliamentarians, but he was of the opinion that the consultants "will be making comparative studies with other Commonwealth countries like Australia and New Zealand and will come up with what they think is the best renumeration package."
According to Khan, the consultant will submit his report to the SRC and the SRC will subsequently submit its final recommendations to the Cabinet and the Parliament, a process which must take place before any issue of a pay hike can be determined.
"Even if any specific recommendations are made, obviously the national sentiment will always be taken into consideration," he insisted.