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Cabinet blanks salary increases

By LAUREL V WILLIAMS Thursday, February 20 2014

CABINET won’t accept recommendations of the Parliamentary House Committee (PHC) which puts increases above those recommended by the Salaries Review Committee (SRC), Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday.

“The SRC is the duly constituted body to deal with salaries across the board from those who fall within the purview of the SRC. They did not recommend salaries but allowances... special allowances. We will not accept that recommendation (from the PHC),” she told reporters yesterday while at the annual Kiddies Carnival competition in Penal.

A release yesterday from the Office of the Prime Minister stated that Cabinet decided not to implement significantly higher levels of pay increases proposed by the PHC for members of Parliament which include the House of Representatives, Senate and the Tobago House of Assembly.

“However, based on legal advice concerning removal of benefits currently being paid to office holders, Cabinet has agreed to retain the practice of allowing exemption of import Duty, VAT and Motor Vehicle taxes for MPs,” the release stated.

The release explained that the SRC’s 98th Report recommended interim increases for the Prime Minister, Attorney General, Cabinet and Non Cabinet Ministers, the House Speaker, President of the Senate, Leader of the Opposition and MPs, pending a comprehensive job evaluation exercise and compensation survey.

The SRC also proposed removal for MPs, of exemptions covering the purchase of motor vehicle taxes and duty, the release added. Several MPs strongly argued that the SRC has not recognised the realities of current demands and the considerable time and effort required to serve at the Parliamentary level.

Cabinet agreed that it was not appropriate to implement the much higher levels of remuneration increases to top office holders and MPs as suggested in the House report. “Cabinet was advised that the Constitution and other laws ‘in very express terms protected the remuneration arrangements of certain office holders’ and therefore any proposed limitation the tax/duty exemptions will violate the constitution,” the Office of the Prime Minister release stated.

In light of this, the release added, Cabinet decided that existing benefits afforded for the purchase of motor vehicles will be retained. Meanwhile, contractors yesterday staged a placard protest in Penal where the Prime Minister attended the Kiddies Carnival competition. The small group claimed Government is owing them an estimated $116 million for 289 projects completed within the past year. Contractor Danny Persad told Newsday Government was owing about 59 contractors throughout the country. Contractors claim they are yet to be paid for work completed

The Prime Minister did not meet with the demonstrators yesterday and later told reporters she will raise the contractors’ concerns with the relevant line ministers.

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