Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas Dr. Hubert A. Minnis’ stated intent of providing salary increases for Members of Parliament in the next budget, is receiving mixed responses from Grand Bahama residents.
A Freeport News team recently asked members of the public to weigh-in on the matter, which is a hot button topic in social circles throughout the country. This is the case namely due to the fact that three years ago, before being elected to office, Prime Minister Dr. Minnis stated that if he should have the privilege of leading the country, there would be no salary increases given to Members of Parliament, in light of the fact that many Bahamians have been suffering financially/economically, for quite a long interval.
Keen to share her views on the subject Gayla McPhee stated: “Personally, I feel the salaries of the Members of Parliament should be increased as they are underpaid, however, I do not think this is the appropriate time to do so.
“Members of Parliament are elected to service for five years and in my view a salary increase should by considered just prior to the completion of their term in office.
“Definitely, it is a matter that should be looked into, as we (the nation/citizenry) tend to focus on so many things, which negate the opportunity for a matter such as this to be looked into. Annually the Members of Parliament make $28,000 with certain allowances and I do not feel that is enough, especially when one reviews the scope of work they are required to do, it is just not enough.”
Also expressing his view was Quincy Bevans.
“Members of Parliament are the bottom line (factor) of government and I believe if Prime Minister Dr. Minnis would wish to increase their salaries by a certain percentage, then minimum wage should be raised, which would allow citizens to have a better standard of living, especially those at the lower end of the scale.
“Personally, I would ask the question: ‘Why would anyone not want their brother or sister to live a little better, just like you, (the MP)?’
“Certainly if the salaries of Members of Parliament are raised, an automatic trickle down effect should ensue with all those employed by the government within a gradual timeframe. Should this be done, then, I believe Bahamians living and working abroad would return home.
“Looking at it in this instance, why should Bahamians who have gone off to school, bettering themselves academically, return home only to make $20,000-$28,000 annually when they could do the same job abroad and earn a minimum $75,000 per year?
“As a young Bahamian who went off to college and earned my degrees, I stayed away for several years simply because I could not find a job that would pay me remotely close to what my pay grade should be. However, after a while I saved up some funds, returned home and got a job and I am surviving and doing my best to make do.
“Going abroad and improving oneself scholastically is great but coming home to work for peanuts is not.”
Educator Martha Edgecombe did not shy away from the matter and clearly expressied her disappointment with Prime Minister Dr. Minnis’ decision to possibly increase the salary of Members of Parliament by the next budget, “after only being in office for a mere six months.”
“Now is certainly not the best time for Prime Minister Minnis to consider increasing the salary of the Members of Parliament, especially as Grand Bahama has been under economic constraints for over a decade.
“Besides, the Members of Parliament have recently been elected and have yet to truly prove themselves in the execution of their duties.
“Many Bahamians have been suffering financially and the work of the Members of Parliament, who have only been in office for the past six months, in my view, does not compare to those who have been struggling for years.
“We have endured a lot of challenges that include hurricanes, recessions, unemployment, underemployment and more; besides many are still trying their best to recover. So, to increase the salary of Members of Parliament, who again have only been in office for the past six months is not right.
“Furthermore, many government employees, who have been working for decades, have yet to be made permanent and pensionable. Educators have had their increases held back for quite some time too, and when one looks at the promises made to teachers regarding the same, they have yet to receive a penny to-date.
“Definitely, the government needs to meet some financial obligations that are outstanding. (They should) find a way to alleviate those issues first before they seek to fill the pockets of Members of Parliament,” declared Edgecombe.
Donald Duncombe said the salary of Members of Parliament should be commensurate with the service they are required to provide.
He noted that Members of Parliament are serving the country at large and their salaries should not be compared to any other, as each is inherently different.
“Personally, I believe that too many Bahamians get upset over things that do not compare. Sadly, we politicize much of what goes on in the country, which makes it very difficult for us to comprehend and appreciate what should happen.
“One must really consider, when was the last time Members of Parliament salary was raised. These men and women are being asked to serve the country and I believe the salaries should be commensurate with the service they are required to provide.
“Members of Parliament should be able to leave what they have been doing and provide service to their country with a salary that should take care my them and their family.
“Now I agree that we should investigate what salary should be given to Members of Parliament that is commensurate with their job. However, sadly enough, the idea of what they are supposed to do and what the law states is required of them, are completely different.
“Most people look to their Members of Parliament for handouts and honestly their salary cannot help with that. However, their wages should be such that all of what they are doing is focused on getting the country exactly where it should be.
“So I agree with Prime Minister Minnis looking into making the Members of Parliament salaries commensurate with their scope of work and if that entails an increase then yes. It should be given once it is consistent with the cost of living and the duties required to be carried out.
“Someone once made the said that we expect Members of Parliament to be above board in their duties and of good moral character however, we must look at whether or not they have integrity and the salaries they are paid should help them in maintaining that integrity,” said Duncombe, who notes no one should be put into a position whereby they are pressed to make ends meet and be forced to have their integrity questioned because they do something just to survive.”
The debate on this matter continues.