Former prime ministers to miss out on big pension increases

Jamaica Observer, Arthur Hall

KINGSTON, Jamaica – While the decision by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to forego his hefty salary increase will have no impact on the current members of the political directorate, former prime ministers will not be so lucky.

Minister of Finance Dr Nigel Clarke on Wednesday told a post-Cabinet media briefing that the decision by Holness means the salary for the holder of The Office of the Prime Minister will not move from its roughly $9 million at present to almost $29 million by April 2024.

“What the prime minister asked is that the scale for prime minister remains as it is,” Clarke told journalists in response to questions about the impact of the decision by Holness.

This would mean that former prime ministers PJ Patterson and Portia Simpson Miller, whose pensions are indexed to the full salary of the sitting Head of Government, will not see their pensions moved.

The same would apply to Carla Seaga, the widow of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga and former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who opted to not index his pension to the full salary of the current prime minister, but instead to accept two-thirds of that amount.

During a media briefing on Monday, Holness announced that he would not accept the salary increase granted to him under the public sector compensation review, stating that, as leader of the country, he has a duty to show solidarity with Jamaicans who are experiencing economic hardships.

According to Holness, while the process of the compensation review was objective and has yielded increases for ministers commensurate with their roles and duties, they have been considered unfair relative to adjustments of other groups.

“This springs from a historic distrust of the political class and a deep belief that some politicians are only looking out for themselves. Quite apart from the skills and efforts they bring to the job and the responsibilities they bear, for which they should be compensated, there is also an expectation that politicians must show solidarity with the suffering of the people. Given the stage of the development of our democracy, these feelings should not be ignored,” said Holness.

READ: PM takes cut Holness turns down salary hike; makes slight changes to Cabinet

He told the media briefing that it is important that the country is assured that its leader, symbolically and truthfully, understands the concerns.

“As your leader, I do. Therefore, I have directed the Transformation Implementation Unit to remove the prime minister’s compensation from the new salary scale. The prime minister’s compensation will therefore remain at its previous level. To be clear, no retroactive payments will apply to the prime minister’s pay,” Holness told the late evening media briefing.

The adjustments announced by the finance minister had the prime minister’s salary slated to move from the current $9.169 million as of 2021, to $22.332 million with effect April 1, 2022, then to $25.26 million effective April 2023, after which it would rise to $28.58 million effective April 2024.

(Photo: Llewelyn Wynter): Minister of Finance Dr. Nigel Clarke during a post-Cabinet media briefing on Wednesday.

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