Parliament has approved that the Emoluments Committee reviews the salaries, allowances and benefits of the Members of Parliament, President and Speaker as provided for under the Parliamentary Remunerations Act 2014; review the Parliamentary Retirement Allowances Act 1989; and must report back to Parliament at a later sitting.
While supporting the motion, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad says the motion deserves their full support because it would result in the credibility and independence of the work of the Parliamentary Emoluments Committee in determining the remuneration and allowances of Members of Parliament.
Professor Prasad reminded the Opposition that some of their members had questioned him when will the Emoluments Committee meet.
He says the motion does not mean the Parliamentary Emoluments Committee itself will make an assessment because the principle is that they cannot determine their own salaries and allowances themselves.
Professor Prasad also reminded the Opposition that an independent emoluments committee met in 2016 that recommended a huge increase in allowances for Ministers and this government is going to review that.
He also said that when FijiFirst knew they would come into Government after the 2014 election, they brought a decree before the first sitting of parliament that year, where they passed and determined their own salaries.
FijiFirst MP Premila Kumar has asked if it is ethical for MPs to review their own salaries and benefits through an Emoluments Committee made up of MPs.
She says the review of MPs allowances and salaries is a sensitive issue that needs to be handled carefully and ethically otherwise it can erode public trust.
Kumar says in her view, they have to avoid conflict of interest and parliamentarians must not have a direct role in setting their own salaries and benefits.
She says there are international best practices used by parliaments around the world and they must do the same so that remuneration is fair, equitable and free from political influence.
The MP says the Emoluments Committee can play the role of a facilitator but not be directly involved in determining the salaries and benefits, not even receiving submission from political parties.
Kumar says in her personal view, the motion needs to be amended to allow the appointment of an independent authority or expert to determine MPs salaries and benefits including the President and the Speaker.
She says if we lack the expertise or interest in the Fijian market, then the Emoluments Committee, with the help of the Parliament, can seek assistance from the development partners or from other parliaments around the globe.
Kumar further says if the economy is doing well then why has the government forgotten its promises made during the election such as increasing minimum wage for unskilled workers and the review of salaries and wages of the civil servants.
She hopes this is also on the government's agenda.
While expressing his personal views, FijiFirst MP Parveen Bala says it is wrong for MPs to be in the Committee and review their salaries, benefits and allowances.
He has suggested that the Committee should be entirely made of people outside the parliament.
Bala says he is told that the Committee is made up of all political parties except the NFP and one wonders why.
He says this is because when NFP will be asked by people about salaries and wages, they will say to the ordinary people that they were not even in the Committee.
Bala further asks if the time is right for this exercise as people are going through some difficult time and are facing a huge cost of living.
He says this is an opportunity to correct it, dissolve the committee and appoint an independent committee.
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