Another salary increase for the Government? What about the rest of Samoa?

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 28 December 2018, 12:00AM

The last Parliament session for the year on Monday was very short. 

As if the cancellation of the session prior to the final sitting of the year was not concerning enough in as far as Parliament’s workload goes, there was obviously no rush from the Speaker of the House, Leaupepe Toleafoa Faafisi and the Government to get on with their work – the ones that require them to perform in session.

One can only feel sorry for all the public servants, getting paid by millions of hard-earned taxpayers money; who work so hard to ensure all the documents; bills and what have you are prepared for a session. 

They only turn up to see their hard work gathering dust on the shelves as one more session is shortened and postponed until who cares. 

To be quite honest, it’s almost a joke.

But that’s the reality in Samoa today.

Which is why the developments last Monday was hardly surprising.

It was merely a continuation of the trend we’ve seen over the years where Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his one-party-state turn up to wish everyone a merry Christmas before they go their merry ways.

But there was one item on the agenda that was given priority and ironically it was about giving more money to public servants – including Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament - yes you heard that right.

Starting next week, the Government is paying public servants more money under the guise of the “Cost of living salary adjustment (C.O.L.A.).

Announced by the Minister of Finance Sili Epa Tuioti, the payment will come from a $19.4 million Supplementary Budget that was tabled. Minister Sili explained they wanted a balance between the competing priorities of Government, and the provision of essential services for the citizens of Samoa is maintained.  

Listen to him: “The implementation of the C.O.L.A. will begin with a 5 per cent increase for all personnel from Principals and below and a 3 per cent increase for all ACEO positions up to below CEOs.

“In January 2020, all Principals to below CEOs will get another 3 per cent increase while a 3 per cent increase will be introduced for CEOs, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament and members of the Judiciary.  

“In January 2021, all public servants including members of Parliament will receive a final pay increase of 2 per cent to complete the implementation of the 2019 COLA.” 

The Minister went to say that the decision comes in light of the increasing cost of living, which has eroded the purchasing power of citizens. He added that, in choosing the right path, the Government has reshuffled many of its developments to make increase happen.

Now let’s be brutally honest here. We find this absurd for the reason that we already have one of the highest paid public services in the Pacific – compared to our size and economy.  

On top of salaries, when we sit down to account for the monies that are allocated for perks, benefits, travel, different allowances, vehicles and much more, we will find that this is perhaps one of the most expensive Governments to run. 

The private sector can hardly compete with these sorts of salaries and offers.

Here’s the thing, one can say that there is nothing wrong with that if the Government can afford it. Which is true. 

But we all know the dire situation the Government has found itself in which is why it has been forced to take some extremely desperate measures to do the unthinkable and that is taxing the Church Ministers. We don’t need to tell you that story.

Now isn’t it also sad that when the Government talks about the “increasing cost of living, which has eroded the purchasing power of citizens,” what about some of poorest people in this country? 

Do they ever think about them? What about the majority of workers who are still being paid the minimum wage of $2.30 tala an hour? Doesn’t Government think that this too deserves attention? Or are they only concerned about paying themselves more money from public coffers? 

This is sad, extremely concerning.

Write and tell us what you think!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 28 December 2018, 12:00AM

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