Salary increase for M.Ps, fewer working hours for public servants and the poor

On the front page of Monday’s Samoa Observer, a story titled “Committee request Tribunal to review salaries” was published. 

Given the recent debate about the Government increasing the salaries for the public service while the minimum wage remains at a bare $2.30 an hour for some of the poorest people in Samoa, the story naturally attracted attention. 

It warranted a closer look. It turns out that the salaries in question belong to Members of Parliament. According to the story, the Parliamentary Finance and Expenditure Committee has put in a request to the Public Service Remuneration Tribunal to review the salaries of Members of Parliament.

How much the increase would be, the report does not say. The story also does not tell us why this is necessary, given the fact that Members of Parliament in Samoa, are already among the highest paid people in this country today.

What we do know is that the proposal was made after a comparison of salaries for Members of Parliament in Samoa and other countries.

 “The Committee also raised its concerns for the Tribunal to review the salary comparison of Members of Parliament compared to other jurisdiction of the Commonwealth and the Pacific Region,” the report reads.

Fair enough. If Samoa’s Members of Parliament are paid poorly compared to other countries, perhaps the idea is worth considering. 

But here’s the thing; has the work of Members of Parliament increased to warrant such a review? What have they achieved in the past few years that would justify the raise? More importantly, does the country have enough money to fund it, if the increase is granted? 

We say this because for a country of less than 200,000 people, running the Government is already a very expensive exercise, costing far more than it should.

When it comes to comparisons, we cannot compare Samoa to Australia, New Zealand and other countries whose populations are in the millions. We’ve got to find countries with similar populations and socio-economic background to compare ourselves to.

Don’t get us wrong, if Members of Parliament are due a pay rise because they are lowly paid, so be it. But it has got to be a justifiable pay rise. There has got to be an economic benefit analysis of the proposal before a decision is made. Look at the business environment for example, is it thriving? How has Parliament and its membership contributed to that? What exactly do they do?

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Let us remind ourselves here and now again that the minimum wage in Samoa remains at $2.30 – and when compared to the cost of living and salaries in the public service – that is daylight robbery. 

If Members of Parliament get a pay rise, surely they too can help push the case for the minimum wage for the majority of the people, who placed them there in those positions of power.

Speaking of public service salaries, the same story also touched on adjustments for salaries of Principal officers, ACEOs and other senior officials within the Government.

“The Finance and Expenditure Committee raised its concern on the difference between salary scale, but the job descriptions are quite similar based on the core function of a particular ministry or public body,” the report stated.  

In response, the Tribunal advised that recommendations have been made to the Public Service Commission that the scale of all principal officers should be consistent – and all public officials should be treated fairly.

Well that’s great. It’s very important to have some consistency.

But here’s the kicker. The story goes on to say the Tribunal was also asked to consider the normal working hours for public servants. 

 “It was proposed by the Finance Committee that normal hours at work should be reduced from eight to seven hours but normal rates still apply,” the report reads. 

“The proposal is based on reducing costs with regards to electricity, and utilising that extra hour to develop other incentives like farming and other developments to generate revenue earnings for families and the economy as a whole.”

More money for lesser hours? So let’s try and make sense of this little stunt, public servants get paid more money and they work fewer hours so they can go off and make some more money in their spare time? This is on top of all the public holidays, half day offs and the never ending workshops they attend from January to December? 

Some people sure have it made. 

Pity those hardworking mothers and fathers though, who are still slaving away for $2.30 an hour. If only they would feature in these considerations. But then again someone has got to pay for all this, right? 

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

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