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‘Pay Raise Could Help To Prevent Corruption’

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Attorney Fred Smith QC

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

NAYSAYERS will never approve raising the salaries of parliamentarians, attorney Fred Smith, QC, said yesterday as he welcomed Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ intention to increase the pay of MPs.

Mr Smith, who has recently fought against some of the Minnis administration’s immigration and legislative priorities, said a pay raise for parliamentarians and civil servants is one way to prevent corruption.

“If we look at other jurisdictions like Singapore, you have to have a reduction in red tape to promote investment, which the government is doing, you have to have good anti-corruption laws, you have to have a Freedom of Information Act and you have to have good salaries for public servants,” he said.

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  • Yes 29%
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Dr Minnis’ announcement of a pay raise for parliamentarians in the next fiscal year has sparked intense debate, with many Bahamians voicing a complaint the prime minister made three years ago when the Christie administration considered the same thing – that too many Bahamians are suffering and the economy is weak.

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), in particular, has criticised the administration for seeking a pay raise while firing people from the public service.

Mr Smith countered yesterday: “Of course thousands will probably have to be laid off because thousands were improperly hired on the eve of the election by the PLP.

“I would urge Parliament to pass legislation to prevent any outgoing administration from extending a contract or hiring people long-term on the eve of an election because it is a plainly dishonest manipulation of public funds by an incumbent administration for an election victory.

“I support the prime minister’s intention 100 per cent to increase the salaries of members of Parliament and to conduct a review of all salaries in the public service. It is an absolute must so that political will and commitment for fighting corruption gains ground.

“The citizenry gave the FNM a hyper majority because they were sick and tired of the ‘all for me,’ corrupt PLP crowd. Jurisdictions have shown that where you are serious about fighting corruption, your legislators and your public servants have to be decently paid.

“There is nothing that undermines a democracy more than the power wielded by special interest groups over politicians and we don’t have to look any further than Peter Nygard’s control of the PLP for decades. That was a sad chapter in Bahamian history and one which was dismissed on May 10.

“There is nothing more undignified than members of Parliament after they have been elected then begging for money to provide services for their constituents and to make ends meet for their own families.

“Once they are given a decent and reasonable salary to help keep the best and the brightest in Parliament, they will be able to work more effectively and the temptation of corruption will be dramatically decreased,” Mr Smith said.

Dr Minnis has been criticised for promising that which he opposed three years ago. Among his critics is former Free National Movement Chairman Darron Cash.

On Facebook last week, Mr Cash said the message the prime minister is sending is “me first, you last”.

However warranted a salary increase might be, “it is still feathering your own nest,” he said, adding: “If I did not know better I would have sworn I was being punked. The news is unbelievable. Old people say that when you make your bed up hard, you have to sleep in it hard. When a new government is striving to distinguish itself from its predecessors in office, a good starting point is not to do all the dumb things they did, especially if you were opposed to those things.”

He continued: “There is something unseemly about a government laying off people who are desperate for a job and then coming behind and raising its own salaries... the FNM did not run on the message of ‘downsize the staff and upsize our own salaries.’ Tough decisions cause goodwill and political capital to be eroded. That is to be expected. A new government should spend its political capital on the tough decisions that matter most to the broader population.”

Comments

BahamasForBahamians 1 month ago

Fred you've missed the mark with this one.

If one's moral compass is tied to compensation then the individual is already tainted.

I repeat: if we have to pay an individual for integrity, then integrity is already lost.

Whether or not the pay level is where it should be is another discussion. One that the country is not ready to have right now.

Reasons include: the current financial standing, maturity, the recent dismissals of thousands of Bahamians.

Hubert is lost Fred. Dont allow him to make you lost as well.

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Porcupine 1 month ago

Agreed. They tried that line of thinking in the US 250 years ago. That worked out well, huh? It seems that the more we get, the more we want. Greed and corruption are two sides of the same coin. Show me a person who got more generous as they got more wealth. and I have a bridge.........................................................

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ThisIsOurs 1 month ago

This is the faultiest argument ever. These men run for office hoping to get million dollar deals for themselves under or over the table, exactly what pay raise will you give them to stop them taking million dollar bribes?

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The_Oracle 1 month ago

Making the personal wealth acquisition path more costly to the public won't change any thing, Locking up crooked politicians and Civil servants will. Do they deserve a raise? Not based on performance. Are they paid adequately? Not really. But neither are teachers, nurses, firemen, police officers. nepotism, cronyism, micro-management and xenophobia, Higher pay won't solve any of that.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month ago

As usual QC Smith cannot see beyond his big nose. He wants most if not all of our government officials and civil servants to be paid more as a means of helping fight corruption as if somehow the money to do so will magically fall on us from the heavens above. I guess QC Smith is proposing we just borrow more to pay the increased public sector salaries and benefits that he supports, much the way that Greece did for decades. But look where that got Greece at the end of the day - steeped in public sector corruption and unsustainable national debt! The IMF/EMF gleefully stepped in to effectively take control of that country's economic affairs. And what's the first thing the IMF/EMF did to try and restore economic stability for Greece? Yep, you guessed it - sell off valuable assets of the state at fire sale prices and impose a harsh austerity program whereby the salaries and benefits of government officials and public sector employees were slashed to the absolute bare bones minimum with much financial hardship for all those affected by the draconian cost saving measures. But something positive is now gaining traction among Greek voters as a result of their very hard learned lesson. They now know they should be seeking to fill elected offices with financially independent individuals who demonstrate an altruistic motivation for public service - men and women who have made it on their own in life and are willing to serve the greater good of the nation. As Bahamians, we would be wise to remember Greece's lesson when we next go to the polls. Unfortunately it seems many of the newcomers to our parliament came there looking for a pay cheque rather than seeking to fulfill the honourable and noble privilege of public service at the highest level. For this we can only blame Minnis and the FNM party for not having nominated the right calibre of MP candidates across the board. The last general election was a golden opportunity to have done so because of the overwhelming anti-PLP sentiment that existed. But true to form, Minnis and the FNM party squandered that opportunity and went with popularity, friendship and loyalty as the main determining factors for candidacy. Sadly, that has continued to be the case in the various appointments made post-election!

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