February 19, 2014: Cabinet declines higher pay increases for MPs
The following is a statement Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Senator the Honourable Kamla Persad- Bissessar regarding the recommendation of salary increases for members of Parliament made by the Salaries Review Committee (SRC) which is a standing body appointed by the President under the Constitution.
The Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago, which I chair, has decided not to implement the significantly higher levels of pay increases proposed by the Parliamentary House Committee for members of Parliament, including the House of Representatives, Senate, and the Tobago House of Assembly.
However, Cabinet has agreed to implement the more modest increases recommended by the Salaries Review Committee (SRC) which is a standing body appointed by the President under the Constitution.
However, based on legal advice concerning the removal of benefits currently being paid to office holders, Cabinet has agreed to retain the practice of allowing the exemption of import Duty, VAT and Motor Vehicle taxes for MPs.
In its 98th Report, the SRC, after careful deliberations including receiving for the first time, direct representations from Members of Parliament, had recommended interim increases for the Prime Minister, Attorney General, Cabinet and Non Cabinet Ministers, Speaker, President of the Senate, Leader of the Opposition and MPs, pending a comprehensive job evaluation exercise and compensation survey.
The SRC however, also proposed removal for MPs’, of the exemptions covering the purchase of motor vehicle taxes and duty. Several Members of Parliament strongly argued that the SRC had not recognised the realities of current demands and the considerable time and effort required to serve at the Parliamentary level. This many felt, virtually required Parliamentary representation to be full time, precluding the ability to earn additional remuneration.
The SRC’s report was in turn studied by the Parliamentary House Committee which bears responsibility for the ‘comfort and convenience of Members of the House of Representatives‘.
Higher levels of salary increases plus new duty, professional and housing allowances were proposed against what the House Committee said were compelling arguments, highlighting among other matters assessments with comparable private sector jobs.
St. Joseph Member of Parliament Terrence Deyalsingh, had publicly reflected the sentiments of many members that new standing regulations would have required even greater input from members who will now be required to sit on additional standing committees.
Cabinet noted it was mindful of the arguments made in the House Committee Report, including the fact that the last pay increases for MPs were implemented eight years ago. In the last SRC review of 2008/2009 it was recommended and agreed by the then Cabinet to maintain existing salary levels.
Cabinet however, pointed out that in view of the country’s present economic challenges and particularly the level of pay increases maintained for public service officers and even workers in the private sector, it agreed that it was not appropriate to implement the much higher levels of remuneration increases to top office holders and MP’s as suggested in the House report.
Further, 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. In light of this, Cabinet decided that the existing benefits afforded for the purchase of motor vehicles will be retained.