By INIGO 'NAUGHTY' ZENICAZELAYA
In 2014, the former PLP administration established the parliamentary select committee to determine salary increases for MPs. Needless to say, “nobody was on dey run”.
The mid-term timimg for this proposal (as that former administration’s popularity was reaching an all-time low) meant the plan came under heavy criticisim from all corners of the nation, and as a result the idea was scrapped and MPs’ salaries were not increased.
After the former PLP government tabled the plans for the pay increase for MP’s in 2014, Dr Minnis told the Nassau Guardian: “The FNM has not agreed to any salary increase.
“A politician’s position, that’s a service position. You have been elected to service and just as we had pain and suffering during the road reconstruction where the entire [population of New Providence] suffered at that time, the politicians must likewise feel the pain and suffering that the rest of The Bahamas is going through.”
“People are suffering and you are talking about salary increase. Salary increase, my foot. As long as I am leader of this country, the FNM would not support any pay increase with all the pain and suffering that is going on in this country. The FNM will push hard for equality. The FNM will push hard to stop this income inequality.”
Take all of it in, those are Dr Minnis’ words (verbatim) from 2014.
Now fast forward the tape to Thursday November 2, 2017.
As Prime Minister, Dr Hubert Minnis now says the salaries of members of Parliament will be raised in the next fiscal year: “I only want to put the nation on notice that the time has come when individuals are being paid by that government half-a-million per annum, individuals are receiving contracts up to $800,000 and the members of Parliament are being paid $28,000. I want to put the country on notice that at the next budget I will come forward with a pay increase for the members of Parliament.”
Dr Minnis said this, in the House of Assembly, as a constitutional amendment bill to create an independent Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, was presented.
Dr Minnis also added, “I will establish an independent committee who will look at the members’ salaries, who will look at salaries for these half-a-million, these $800,000 and these contracts signed a few hours before election, all of that will be reviewed. (The committee will) review all salary structures for government entites.”
Two things come to mind when hearing and reading the Prime Minister recent remarks: First off, it is eerily similar to the PLP’s 2014 proposal.
The same proposal that was rebuked and voted against by the opposition FNM. (Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I suppose.)
Also, as I have highlighted previously in this column, the hypocrisy in our present administration, and the consistent double talk and “Trumpian” like maneuvers of Prime Minister Minnis are astounding. (Thanks for proving me right once again ‘Doc.’ )
I mean, did I miss something? Are we in an opposite parallel universe?
Are the citizenry and voting populace, to allow their intelligence to be insulted so easily and continually?
The recent actions and positioning of Prime Minister Minnis, and subsequently his FNM party and MP’s, is a far cry from the “accountability and transparency” promised by this administration on the campaign trail.
Sadly, the only thing this present FNM government has done consistently, is fail to deliver on it’s campaign promises. Where is the ‘Over the Hill Tax Free Zone’ bill? Where is the anti-corruption bill?
MR ROBINSON’S NEIGHBOURHOOD
I wonder if Dr Minnis had an inkling of the potential fallout to come with his salary increase announcement.
In any event, his loyal defenders, the “Minniskateers”, were quick to come to his aid. (No doubt with dollar signs in their eyes.)
The country’s youngest parliamentarian, Bain and Grants Town MP Travis Robinson, who is obviously the “Porthos” of this group, offered this impassioned nugget: “I think it’s about time that they increase members of Parliament salaries.”
“I think that $28,000 a year is highly ridiculous. Members of Parliament are being given janitorial salaries.”
“It is no easy task out there and if we are serious about stemming this tide of corruption then we must have a balanced approach to it and I think this increase would give that balanced approach.”
When asked to provide a ball park figure, Robinson offered the following reslinse.
“I would say about $60,000 to $70,000 a year.”
“It’s long overdue. You cannot expect that members of Parliament in the government, they are dealing with staff who are being paid three and four and five times their salaries and they must sit there and not indulge in some form of corruption.
It is ridiculous. My Minister of Tourism (Dionisio D’Aguilar), there are 32 persons in our ministry who are paid more than him. He’s the minister and 32 people are paid more than him, so imagine me as the parliamentary secretary. I think that the public should have no objections to it. We should see it as another phase of stamping out corruption.”
Mr Robinson, let me make one thing abundantly clear; while I continue to lobby for young leadership in all political parties, I’m referring to vibrant, young, dynamic, visionaries. Young leaders who are willing to serve, and bring about positive changes in the country, both socially and politically. Not more “political puppets” regurgitating sensless party rhetoric, to gain “brownie points” while unwittingly exposing the political naivete of both themselves and their leader.
Not to mention, leaving Parliament far more wealthy than you entered.
It’s national service, not serve yourself!
If I’m not mistaken, Mr Robinson went from student to politician in one fel swoop. So, $28,000 is not a bad starting salary, considering the economic landscape in the country presently.
Furthermore, Mr Robinson needs to start earning that MP’s salary that he so flipantly turned his nose up at.
Allegedly, he’s quite a hard man to catch up to in Bain and Grants Town, with some constituents refering to him as a “mini” Jerry Roker.
Two more things, Mr Robinson.
First, if a politician is corrupt at $28,000 a year, they will still be corrupt at $60,000- $70,000 a year.
Secondly, if you want that MP’s increase so badly, then ensure that your leader and party implement and deliver on your campaign promise for a recall on all non-performing MPs.
Robinson’s comments should offend every Bahamian who voted him in and hired him to do a job for which he knew the going rate beforehand. A rate which, I might add, is almost twice what most of the domestic and maintenance workers he so thoughtlessly insulted make.
If the job is too much and the pay is too little, resignation is always an option. No one will fault you for chasing the money you think will keep you from ‘yielding to temptation’ in the free market.
But it’s just amazing. Six months ago this crew was on stage begging for a chance to “clean up” the PLP’s mess. Now they ’round here talking ’bout dey ain’t no janitors’!
The FNM came into office in May. Went on vacation in June, returned to the HOA in October, and are now asking for “that lil extra ting” in November.
All while delivering “zilch” on the major campaign promises so far.
Here’s a solution for the PM and his “Minniskateers” since a “raise” is all they are transfixed on; stock up on cold Guinness and conch salad in abundance for the “Smokers Room” in the HOA.
If that fails, might I suggest Dr Minnis lean on his medical degree and expertise and write himself and his “Minniskateers” a prescription for their “problem”!