Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has brushed aside calls from trade union leaders on the island for Parliamentarians to stop receiving pension from the State pending a resolution of the pension issue with the island’s estimated 5,500 public officers.
Speaking to reporters in St. George’s, the Prime Minister said he believes that it will be unfair to ask Parliamentarians to give up the opportunity to get a pension when most of them return to poverty after serving time in government office.
According to the Grenadian leader, he would not be the one to tell members of the Houses of Parliament who are serving the people of Grenada in a diligent manner that they should forego their pension until the issue with public officers is resolved.
His comment on the issue came on the heels of calls from Public Sector Unions for government to restore pension to public workers that was abolished by the 1979-83 leftist People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of Maurice Bishop.
The Public Workers Union (PWU), Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Grenada Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) are insisting that their members are entitled to pension as politicians who serve only two five year terms in office receive a pension upon retirement.
Pension for Parliamentarians was introduced by the Herbert Blaize-led New National Party (NNP) administration during the 1984-90 period in government.
According to Dr. Mitchell who served as Works Minister under the Blaize regime, he is opposed to taking to any Parliamentarian to forego their pension.
“It’s easy to go to a politician and talk that language and some of us might say yes, we should do this but if we look at the facts I cannot be part of that. I’ll tell you why – a politician has no security, none. When you go to vote and you decide to throw a politician out your door, ask nothing, you just put the X and you get rid of him. So he spends one term, he gets nothing”, he said.
“… If I depended on government’s income to stay in politics I was gone long because what I get from government, I have to take from my private business to supplement my actions – forget what I have to use now to keep my lifestyle going,” he added.
Prime Minister Mitchell was adamant that a public servant’s salary is used differently from that of a politician.
“…A public servant for example when he gets his pay cheque and he goes home with it, he does only what he wants to do with it. A politician’s pay cheque, if he is a good politician in this present environment, he can’t have money, that’s if he is a good one. So, to say that this person (Parliamentarian) who has already made some sacrifices must not get a pension…I don’t think it is fair”, he remarked.
PM Mitchell contended that life after retirement for a politician is “less than deserving’.
“Check the history of parliamentarians in the past to see how many of them that we used to say that benefits so much from government when they leave, most of them are paupers. Tell me a politician in this country here in the past, whom we used to label as corrupt and so on – some of them may have been – but the fact is, tell me one who you see fat with government resources outside of government,” he said.
Prime Minister Mitchell is believed to be the richest serving person to ever serve in the Lower House of Parliament with a net worth of $19 million dollars.
During the 2003-08 period, he had to defend himself against allegations that he accepted a bribe of US$1 million from convicted fraudster, Eric Resteiner in exchange for a diplomatic position with government.