With so much uncertainty, should the public service continue with pay raise?
The story titled “Second pay raise rolled out for public servants” on the front page of the Samoa Observer yesterday stood out like a sore thumb. Given the precarious climate of today with the coronavirus global pandemic wreaking havoc on economies around the world – including Samoa - one would think that the Government would have exercised restraint and perhaps placed this on the back burner until the right time.
In a time of incredible crisis, where our most vulnerable people are at risk, we look to the leaders who have been given the mandate to serve and lead to be sensitive and considerate. What we are seeing is anything but.
Indeed, to continue to give themselves a pay raise when the impact on the global pandemic on the tourism industry is so enormous businesses have been forced to lay off hundreds of workers, is extremely inconsiderate.
To continue with this plan while our export markets have been severely impacted, leading to the temporary closure of local businesses as well as the introduction of restricted trading hours, is not sensitive.
To introduce so many unnecessary restrictions under the guise of the coronavirus pandemic, including Sunday restrictions, which is crippling so many businesses and then you reward yourself with a pay raise lacks care.
This is especially at a time when everybody else in the community has been called upon to make personal sacrifices to help this nation get through these difficult and uncertain times.
Besides, and ironically, on the same front page yesterday, the Government through the Ministry of Health clearly admits they have not paid doctors’ overtime, blaming “teething problems” with the recent merger between the Ministry of Health and the National Health Services.
Let’s pause here for a minute and pull back a bit.
We do not oppose pay raises for public servants where they are due and warranted. Pay raises after all, as they are implemented in business and everywhere else around the world, are offered as a reward for performance and merits. The jury is out on whether public servants in Samoa deserve a pay raise. You have your opinion and we have ours.
What we do want to remind is that around the world today, there are many examples of leaders in public offices and private companies who have voluntarily offered salary cuts in these unprecedented times. Not only to show that it is a humane thing to do, but as their contribution towards ensuring their countries and companies stay afloat, and are able to weather-the-storm brought on by the global pandemic.
Here in Samoa, it is obviously a different mentality.
With the General Election eight months away, the Government is pushing through with its pay raise policy for all public officials with the last portion distributed just before April next year.
From the budget of 2020-2021, the Head of State position – who is also the highest paid public servant – will benefit from a salary of $189,371, not including $20,000 allowance.
The second highest paid public official is the Prime Minister with a salary of $183,960, not including $15,000 allowance per annum. The Deputy Prime Minister gets a $15,000 allowance and $146,000 as salary in 2020.
The Chief Justice is the third highest paid public servant at $170,000 for the current financial year coupled with a $15,000 allowance. The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly gets $135,000 and the Deputy Speaker $102,000. For Cabinet Ministers, they will benefit from $135,000 plus a $13,000 allowance per annum.
These are not small amounts. And we are not saying that these people do not deserve them either. Far from it. The point we are making is that is this the right time? Should the Government pursue this pay raise policy given the uncertainty and the fragility of the times? Should this not be put on ice until another time?
Besides, can the public coffers support and sustain these increases when everything else is being scaled down and switched to fit in with the survival mode type of mentality deserving of uncertain times like these?
And then there is the idea of leaders leading by example when it comes to sacrifices. Is this the best example of such leadership? Or could this be the worst example of the culture of entitlement that has been cultivated in the Samoan public service over many years?
All we are thinking of are the sentiments expressed by the Owner of the Aiaiava Bus Company and former politician, Leanapapa Laki Anderson, when Prime Minister Tuilaepa kept insisting on everyone making sacrifices as part of the Covid19 response.
"We have had to sacrifice,” Leanapapa responded. “What about the Government? The Government leaders should also sacrifice as they're the leaders. The sacrifice should start from them. They should start by rejecting the extra payments they receive on top of their salaries and give it to the people who need food and money right now.”
What do you think? Write and share your thoughts with us, God bless!