Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has promised to review the salaries being paid to three government backbenchers.
Since taking office one year ago, Dr. Mitchell took the decision to offer full Ministerial salaries to Yolande Bain-Horsford, the Parliamentary representative for the constituency of St. Andrew’s South-West, as well as Tobias Clement, the Member of Parliament for St. George North-east and Clifton Paul, the representative for St. Patrick’s East.
The trio who have not been assigned Ministerial portfolios have been receiving a monthly salary of just over $7000.
The official records show that Bain-Horsford, Clement and Paul are being paid $1,224.98 as basic salary, duty allowance of $1000, entertainment allowance of $400, internet allowance $99, telephone allowance $57 and a personal allowance of $4,435.00.
In addition, Clement is taking home approximately EC$13, 500.00 in salaries from another job with St. George’s University.
Dr. Mitchell made the commitment to have the salaries of the three backbenchers reviewed during a Town Hall meeting at the St. Patrick’s Anglican School in Sauteurs after being confronted by a villager Dawnley Joseph who wanted to know the true motive behind that decision at a time when government is struggling to meet its monthly financial commitment.
The Prime Minister indicated that he is not sure every member of his government agreed with the decision to pay the backbenchers full ministerial salaries.
However, he said he took the position that giving Bain-Horsford, Clement and Paul a full Minister’s salary, it made it easier for them to be able to perform their duties as Parliamentary Representatives as they did not have an arm of government which they can use to help their constituencies.
In addition, he said the three Backbenchers are not in a position as those in Cabinet to influence decision that can help their people, but if they are able to have the necessary resources to help their constituents develop, it may not be a bad thing.
“I am not saying that should justify what I have done… the call could be anybody’s own… I am not saying the decision that I have made is a perfect one so I could understand you questioning it, but I made, I take responsibility for it, not that we have to keep it permanently, it is something that we will re-examine over a period of time,” he added..
Ever since the decision was made several interest groups in the country including the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) have been calling on Dr. Mitchell to review the decision in light of government’s call on Grenadians to make several sacrifices as part of a 3-year Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) to address a fiscal problem plaguing the country.
Another issue that is attracting much debate in many quarters is the daily appearance of Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Religious Affairs, Senator Sheldon Scott on a radio talk show program that is sponsored by the ruling New National Party (NNP).
Critics say that Sen. Scott is using government time to do the programme on behalf of his party.
Just last week in a GBN television newscast, Sen. Scott was heard scolding Imani workers who are being absent from the youth program by reminding them that it is the taxpayers of the country who are paying them.
One local Commentator pointed out that Sen. Scott has failed to realise that is the same taxpayers money that is paying him a salary as a Junior Government Minister as he spends two hours on a daily basis hosting a political program and not doing any State work.