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GOODBYE KI$$ FOR MPs

By Andre Bagoo Sunday, June 8 2014

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LEGISLATION proposing to raise the retirement allowance of MPs and to, for the first time, introduce a special “goodbye kiss” or termination payment to any MP who is not re-elected after a general election, was tabled in the House of Representatives on Friday.

The Retiring Allowances (Legislative Service) (Amendment) Bill 2014 was tabled in the House of Representatives by the Government Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal.

The bill proposes to make it easier for an MP to qualify for a retirement allowance by reducing the qualification criteria from service of “not less than five years” to four.

Retiring allowances payable to persons who have served as legislators for various periods, with effect from August 1, 1976, are also to be hiked. In some cases, the allowance will be effectively tripled, moving from one sixth’s of one year’s basic salary to one third of salary plus allowances.

The bill also proposes to, for the first time, extend the payment of the same retirement allowance to Senators. However, unlike the other provisions, this will apply only to future senators and not have retroactive effect.

An ordinary MP receives a basic salary of $17,410 per month. This is in addition to a transport allowance of about $5,000. A housing allowance of $7,000 has also been proposed in separate proposals. A senator receives a basic salary of $13,060 per month and a transport allowance of $4,560 per month. These are all exclusive of other exemptions and perks.

In the case of an MP who has served for not less than nine years over two consecutive terms, the retirement allowance could move from about $36,000 per year on the current computation to about $117,640 per year, under the increase in rate and with inclusion of transport and housing allowance (proposed) in the computation.

But Clause 6 of the bill also proposes the introduction of a “termination benefit”. The notes to the bill state, “The new section 6B would provide for the payment of a termination benefit equal to one half of one year’s pensionable emoluments to a current or future member of the House of Representatives who is not re-elected after the dissolution of Parliament.”

In effect, any MP who is not re-elected would be the beneficiary of a payment of about $176,460, including the proposed housing allowance in the computation.

In the latest report of the Salaries Review Commission (SRC) — the Constitutional body charged with recommending pay levels of public officials — the role of an MP is described.

The 98th SRC report states, “Members are required to assist in making laws for the good governance of Trinidad and Tobago, serve on Joint Select and Select Committees, research, prepare and file motions in Parliament for debate and, when necessary, represent Trinidad and Tobago at international fora. Their functions in their constituencies include assisting constituents in times of need as well as attending to concerns articulated by constituents with regard to their communities.” The SRC maintained the retirement scheme under the Retiring Allowances (Legislative Service) Act and did not recommend amendment.



PROPOSED

TERMINATION BENEFIT



6B.(1) Every person who – (a) at the commencement of the amending Act, is a member of the House of Representatives; or (b) after the commencement of the amending Act, becomes a member of the House of Representatives, and who ceases to be a member of the House of Representatives in accordance with section 5(3), shall be paid a termination benefit equal to one half of one year’s pensionable emoluments calculated in accordance with section 6(2).

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