An article appearing in this week’s edition of THE NEW TODAY on the back page is bound to raise eyebrows in the country.
It focuses on the monthly take home pay of Member of Parliament for St. George North-east, Tobias Clement who is reportedly earning close to EC$20, 000.00 a month in salaries from St. George’s University and as a Member of Parliament without an assigned portfolio in the eleven month old New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
It is no fault of Mr. Clement that he is not a member of the Cabinet of Minister of the government since that is at the sole discretion of the Prime Minister.
After the victory at the polls of the NNP in the February 2013 general elections, Mr. Clement was not only one of the fifteen victorious NNP candidates but he was a big winner due to his defeat of the then Minister of Finance and Deputy Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nazim Burke.
Initially, it was thought that this particular MP did not mind not being selected to serve as a Cabinet Minister due to the fact that he was already earning a salary in excess of what a government minister was being paid by the State.
The news now coming out of Parliament is that Mr. Clement is also getting the tidy sum of $5,717.00 a month paid to all MP’s who were not given ministerial assignments by the Prime Minister.
This development is not surprising to many since Prime Minister Mitchell did make a public pronouncement that the Parliamentarians who were not selected to serve as members of the government will be getting the same salaries as those who sit in the Cabinet.
The Tobias Clement situation is very interesting especially at a time when the same Prime Minister is now calling on the rest of the nation for “shared sacrifices”.
The public sector unions in the country will be taking careful note of this development in light of the announcement made by Dr. Mitchell last December 10 when he delivered the 2014 Budget and virtually declared that there will be a wage freeze for civil servants for the duration of the 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
THE NEW TODAY is not suggesting that our Parliamentarians should not be adequately paid by the State for the work they do on behalf of the country.
But in the case of Mr. Clement, he is being paid an additional $5,717.00 for doing nothing for the State, and is also picking up another $13, 000 plus a month in salaries from SGU.
Maybe a case should be made out for Mr. Clement to be hired directly by the State to help solve the current economic and financial mess that the country has now found itself in.
One argument put forward in defence of the St. George North-east MP is that he is not alone among the MP’s who are earning in excess of the monthly salary of $EC5,717.00 since others are known to be receiving a monthly pension of thousands of dollars from the State.
That might be so but equally important is the fact that none of the other MP’s are getting an extra income of $13, 000 plus dollars a month from any other legitimate source in the country.
It is doubtful whether the MP who is not in the Cabinet and whose family owns a major private sector entity in the country is picking up an extra salary along the lines of Mr. Clement.
This paper holds strongly to the view that the Tobias Clement situation needs to be re looked by the Prime Minister in the national interest in light of his call for “shared sacrifices” to be made by the people at this point in time because the scenario looks rather ugly.
The other issue which needs some serious addressing by the Prime Minister and government relates to signs of massive inefficiency within the Ministry of Education.
This newspaper checked into many of the assertions made by the President of the Grenada Union of Teacher (GUT), Lyden Lewis concerning the problems encountered with the back pay due to teachers and other civil servants, as well as the fact that some teachers have not been paid their monthly salaries since last September.
The GUT President is on the ball when he laid the fault at the feet of the personnel within the Ministry of Education and not so much the Ministry of Finance.
The Prime Minister seems to be aware of the problems within that particular ministry based on comments he made at a particular forum.
He is quoted as saying that the Ministry of Education is giving him the most problems despite the fact that he had changed three Permanent Secretaries within the past eleven months.
If the Minister of Education, Anthony Boatswain is not in charge then the PM must take charge and fix the problem to provide better service.
The effectiveness of Mr. Boatswain is very much in question in light of complaints that in the eleven months since being handed the portfolio by the Prime Minister, he is yet to hold a single meeting with the Staff of the Ministry of Education.
The question that one has to ask is whether the staffers at the Ministry of Education are aware of the vision of Mr. Boatswain and the NNP administration in the area of education.
The staffers should not have to read the NNP manifesto to get a glimpse into the thinking of the party but the Line Minister should be doing his work to sell the policy to the and Permanent Secretary staffers through meetings and interactions with them.