– insists new salary structure was needed
– Finance Minister sets out reasons for increases
By Ariana Gordon
The move by Cabinet to increase salaries of ministers was not a “rash or hasty” decision, President Granger said yesterday, refuting claims that his administration was being “selfish or greedy.”Since Independence, he explained, governments have devised systems to attract talent and “sometimes persons were paid at different rates.”
“This has continued. What we did is nothing new,” the President said in an exclusive interview with the Guyana Chronicle.
Granger said his government inherited a situation where “there was already differentiation in salary payment at some levels.”
“Everyone knows that Ms. Gail Texeira, Dr. Roger Luncheon, and Anil Nandlall were not paid normal ministers’ salaries,” said President Granger of officials who served under the previous government.
“I would like to emphasize that we did spend quite a lot of time; it was not a rash or hasty decision,” he told the Guyana Chronicle in an exclusive interview.
“It was not a selfish or greedy decision.
“We took time to consider all aspects of this problem and in the final analysis we felt it was the correct thing to do to ensure a quality of governance from our cabinet,” he said.
The APNU+AFC led administration came in for strong criticisms from various sections of society on the increase, which in some cases amounted to 50% for government ministers.
Granger noted that many of the ministers of government are not “in their early careers.”
“They have established themselves in various professions and in public life and it would have been unreasonable to demand they have a sudden or massive drop in income.”
There are five lawyers and many other professionals in the Cabinet, the President said.
As a result he believes “some consideration had to be given not to damage the quality of life by drastically reducing their income.”
President Granger explained that there are four levels of ministerial appointments.
The Prime Minster is the first level, followed by Vice Presidents, Cabinet Ministers and then Junior ministers.
In the past, he said there was only one level of ministers.
“What we had is that there was one level and ministers performing different functions, some with heavy workloads.
“Administrative and regulatory or supervisory functions were being paid at the same level as the person they are supervising.”
“There is a precedent issue that every government has had to pay to attract talent and we have talent and many of our people are late career, and it is not as though this is their first job.
“This is a job to which they bring tremendous amounts of experience and knowledge and it is appropriate that they should be adequately rewarded,” Granger told Guyana Chronicle.
Asked why the decision was termed by him as a difficult one, President Granger said his administration recognised that “there would have been some public reaction” to it. He is however hopeful that citizens understand the rationale behind the increases.
“We hope now that the public understands better that the time we took to arrive at the decision and the reasons why we arrived at the decision.
He said that while the Public Service Commission of Inquiry is now sitting, Cabinet decided not to wait since “the situation that we have at the present time was untenable and we took a decision not to allow that anomalous situation to continue.”
President Granger stressed that not all ministers received a fifty per cent increase.
“All of the changes are not 50 per cent… It is only the leap to move the Vice Presidents above the Ministers that you see that jump. All of the Ministers are not getting 50 per cent,” the President said.
Ministers within the Ministries have received small increases in their salaries.
According to an Extraordinary Official Gazette dated September 25, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo received a 10 per cent increase that will now see him being paid $20,580,000 per annum.
Vice Presidents will receive $11,135,064 per annum while senior government Ministers are to receive $10,439,124 per annum. Junior Ministers will receive just over $8,346,492 per annum. The Attorney General will receive the same salary as the Chancellor of the Judiciary; Speaker of the National Assembly is to receive $10,439,124 per annum.
Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition will receive $10,439,124 while Parliamentary Secretaries will receive $3,753, 984 per annum. The Deputy Speaker will receive $2,702, 880 and Chief Whip will receive $2, 682, 360 per annum.
Every other member of the National Assembly will receive $2, 402, 532 per annum.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan said “the issue is not whether we waited longer or not; the issue is whether there is a moral or other argument for this salary increase”
Three reasons have been put forward by Jordan that seeks to justify why the salary increase was needed.
“There was an anomalous situation that we inherited in relation to the salary structures from the President coming right down. The second was that there wasn’t a Vice President structure in the past regime or in recent times so a salary scale had to be set for vice presidents.
“The third reason was that there are larger ministries and ministerial structures requiring greater responsibilities and so a salary scale had to be set to recognise the new responsibilities that have been given to these mega ministries that were created.”