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Did AFC support hefty increase in ministers salaries?

Tourism Minister, Cathy Hughes taking the Oath of Office before President David Granger.

A senior functionary of the Alliance For Change (AFC) on Thursday declined to say whether her party supported the decision to increase ministers’ salaries, even as she sought to justify it as a means of discouraging corruption.

Asked if the AFC had offered Cabinet support for the increases, Tourism Minister, Catherine Hughes told reporters “the business of Cabinet is confidential and, therefore, I would not want to disclose…It’s a difficult decision, it’s a very difficult decision and I would not want to comment specifically on that.”

The AFC is the smaller partner in government alongside the larger A Partnership for National Unity (APNU).

She said the 50 percent hike in ministerial salaries four months after the new government took office was one of the measures to ensure ethical practices by elected officials.

“This was a way of ensuring that ministers are not involved in all kinds of other businesses through the back-door, supplying products to government agencies, got their friends and family getting pluses and special concessions that are monetary that back up their salaries,” she said.

Hughes said it made better sense to pay the ministers well rather than open up to corrupt deals and violate the ministerial code of conduct. The Tourism Minister said she was optimistic that other government employees would benefit from a further increase in salaries in the 2016 National Budget. “I am very hopeful that the Minister of Finance, by the next budget, will be able to give more to more of the public servants and the different groups of people in Guyana that deserve a better life,” she said.

Hughes deflected a question about rationalizing criticisms as the then opposition about hefty salaries that had been earned by then presidential advisors, Gail Teixeira and Odinga Lumumba. She stressed that the ministerial salary hike was part of government’s anti-corruption drive. “We are putting things in place to curb rampant corruption and we are putting things in place to ensure that individuals that are in positions of power don’t use their positions of influence to gain financially and monetarily,” she said.

The Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) has already expressed concern about the fact that Cabinet increased its salaries while being just four months on the job while long-serving teachers have been awarded a measly five percent hike in the 2015 national budget.