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Akash Samaroo

Five per cent? Why not double it?

Political scientist Dr Bishnu Ragoonath believes the Leader of the Opposition was being conservative when she threw a challenge out to Government Ministers to donate five per cent of their salaries for a year to not only help members of the public who have fallen on hard times during COVID-19, but to show solidarity with the wider public who are all feeling the economic pinch.

“Personally my suggestion would have been for a 10 per cent pay cut and not a five per cent, I think the Opposition Leader was just tongue in cheek, but if you really want to make an impact or really want to demonstrate that you are in solidarity with the people then a 10 per cent pay cut would have been in keeping with what is happening, particularly as a significant amount of people are out of jobs,” Ragoonath told Guardian Media yesterday.

But how much funds would a five per cent contribution per month, over a year, amount to.

Using just the House of Representatives as an example, there are different pay scales.

A Government Minister, with a Cabinet portfolio, would earn more than one without and they in turn would be paid more than a Member of Parliament without a ministerial portfolio.

The House Speakers would also earn a different sum from the elected MP’s.

Using the salaries outlined by the 98th Report of the Salaries Reviews Commission, the monthly contribution by both Government and Opposition adds up to approximately $80,000.

Given that Kamla Persad-Bissessar suggested this fund be in existence for about a year, that would mean the annual contribution would amount to approximately $980,000.

However, Ragoonath believes the Government will not acquiesce to Persad-Bissessar’s suggestion.

He said, “I don’t think the Government is going to do it, if you remember Keith Rowley saying in the past that he wanted his money and the comments by some the Attorney General and Minister Deyalsingh (on the motor vehicle allowance) those comments clearly suggest the Government has no intention of showing solidarity with the suffering of the population at large.”

The reference made to the Prime Minister has to do with a statement he made in 2016 where he demanded his month’s salary for the time when he was Opposition Leader but was suspended from the House of Representatives over the ’emailgate’ affair.

Guardian Media reached out to Government Ministers, some indicated that they already give a portion of their salary to constituents.

The question of cutting the salaries of MPs during the pandemic was posed to the Prime Minister in April but the PM responded by saying that the largest payment of salaries in the public service was not MPs.

“We pay $4.5 billion in payments and there is no consideration at this time to cut anybody’s pay.” he said.