The Leader of the Independent Group in Parliament Hon John Dean Kuku has lashed out at the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission and the DCGA, strongly rejecting the proposal to increase salaries of Members of Parliament.
Kuku said “Firstly, if rewarding parliamentary performance is anything to go by then the 11th Parliament undeniably falls short of this qualification. To date only 3 of the Government’s 13 Bills legislative agenda announced by the Governor General since 2020 have been debated and passed by Parliament. Hence it can be said that the 11th Parliament has failed in its legislative role therefore its members do not deserve to be given such rewards”.
The Leader said that the 11th Parliament continues to be plagued by the “scourge of numbers”. The DCGA has significant latitude to implement whatever legislative reforms they wish to implement given the numerical strength they command in parliament, yet time and again they have chosen to disregard common good for self-interest. This proposal, again is a classic display of this self-seeking attitude.
Kuku said that given the impact of COVID 19 and the November Riots as referred to in all official government statements along with the rather grim statistical outlook for economic growth and recovery in 2023, applying these remuneration increases for parliamentarians would be inconsistent with the wider economic data and simply fails to reflect the harsh realities our people will be facing in 2023.
Let’s take Fiji for example. In March 2020, the Fiji government imposed a 20 per cent salary reduction for all its parliamentarians. The newly elected Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka on taking over leadership this year proposed a further cut to the already imposed 20 per cent reduction in remuneration for all parliamentarians. This is a demonstration of responsible leadership and decent public financial policy the Leader said.
Kuku further stated “any such increases in remuneration for Members of Parliament should rise in line with public sector pay (which has remained frozen for the past 3 years) underpinned by improved economic performance, and significant growth in public sector earnings to justify it. More so any increases in government salary should prioritize public servants, teachers, and health workers.
Significantly, the $1.06 billion deficit in the 2023 budget recently passed by parliament leaves a huge gaping hole in the economy that the government intends to plug through more borrowings. These are resounding disqualifications for the proposal.
“It is just completely ridiculous to increase remuneration for parliamentarians while the country is suffering an economic recession” Kuku said.
The Leader further added that the country is under no obligation, financial or otherwise, to fund the proposal as it was not included in the 2023 Budget recently approved by parliament. It is just a mere proposal at this stage that is subject to refusal or approval through due processes.
Quite ironically, the Leader previously had referenced this in his debate on the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2022 passed by Parliament to defer the dissolution of the 11th Parliament from 15th May 2023 to 31st December 2023. On the question of “who benefits from the extension of parliament” the Leader had declared in parliament that only Members of Parliament, the Speaker, and political appointees would benefit from the extension through payment of salaries and other remuneration benefits.
“It did not take long for it to come to pass didn’t it? However they’ve decided to take it a notch higher this time” Kuku said.
The Leader concluded by strongly recommending a freeze or better still a 9.7 per cent cut instead imposed on MP remuneration for the remainder of the term of the 11th Parliament.
“However one cares to look at it, the proposal is purely self-serving and unjustified therefore I must out rightly reject it” he said.
The Leader appeals to all MPs from all sides of the political divide to stand united in rejecting this proposal and ensuring it does not see the light of day.
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