Not the right time to increase MPs pay when many Fijians are struggling – Dialogue Fiji

Not the right time to increase MPs pay when many Fijians are struggling – Dialogue Fiji

By Vijay Narayan
Thursday 23/05/2024
Executive Director of Dialogue Fiji, Nilesh Lal

Dialogue Fiji has today expressed its concern and disappointment over the recommendations made by the Parliamentary Special Committee on Emoluments, which propose substantial increases in the salaries, allowances, and benefits for the President, Speaker of Parliament, Government Ministers, and Members of Parliament.

Executive Director of Dialogue Fiji, Nilesh Lal says the recommendations from the Special Committee come at a time when many Fijians are struggling to make ends meet, and implementing such increases would not only put significant pressure on the public coffers but also send the wrong message to the populace, who are enduring economic hardships.

He says at a time when the nation is grappling with economic challenges and the public is subjected to austerity measures and fiscal consolidation policies, it is utterly insensitive and inappropriate to propose such significant hikes in the compensation of MPs and statutory position holders.

Lal says these recommendations are out of touch with the economic realities faced by the majority of Fijians and their sentiments.

Dialogue Fiji says according to the recommendations endorsed by the committee, Members of Parliament would get a whopping 138 percent increase in salary, Assistant Ministers would get a 67 percent increase, the Speaker of Parliament would get a 47 percent increase, the Leader of Opposition would get a 108 percent increase, Ministers would receive up to 35 percent increase, the Prime Minister would get a 22 percent increase, while the President would get a 42 percent increase in salary based on the rates compared to in the Parliamentary Remunerations Act.

Lal says the proposal also appears to include an increase in the overseas travel per diem for the President and Prime Minister, although the formula and explanations provided are somewhat confusing.

Dialogue Fiji says the committee is also proposing that the state now provide official residences for the Speaker of Parliament and the Leader of the Opposition.

It is also proposed that MPs and the Speaker of Parliament receive tax and duty exemptions on the purchase of their vehicles.

Medical and life insurance payments by the state for all MPs are also being proposed, along with additional remuneration for the Deputy Speaker, Leader of Government, and party whips and deputy whips.

Lal adds this proposal, if implemented, would result in the highest compensation for MPs and statutory position holders in Fiji’s history.

He says never before have MPs and statutory officers been compensated so generously.

Dialogue Fiji says the bloated government, with its 29 ministers and assistant ministers, already places a heavy burden on public finances.

Lal says it is also noteworthy that the committee only called for submissions from the four political parties represented in parliament, who clearly have a vested interest in the matter, and based its endorsements solely on the recommendations of a consultant.

Dialogue Fiji urges the parliament to reject these recommendations and to prioritize the needs of the nation over the interests of a few.

Lal says if the public is being urged to tighten their belts, it is morally improper for MPs to receive such huge increases in pay, although some increases for ordinary MPs and Assistant Ministers are justified in consideration of the disparities in salaries and the elevated cost of living.

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