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Former PNCR executive member chides govt for mishandling ministers’ pay increase

Government ministers seated in Parliament

A former executive member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) has rapped the coalition-led government for the way it has handled the announcement of a pay increase for ministers.

Mr. Sherwood Lowe, who sits on the Broadcasting Authority’s Board, warned the coalition government that it would be judged on its own record at the next elections.

“The political behaviour in the post-PPP era is already pointing to a major challenge for the coalition government in the very next election. It is going to be judged mostly on its own record. The strong anti-PPP sentiments, which helped drive massive support for the coalition parties in 2011 and 2015, are likely to wane or be ignored in 2020,” he said in a letter published in the Tuesday, September 13, 2015 edition of the privately-owned Stabroek News newspaper.

Lowe stayed clear of criticizing the 50 percent pay hike but appeared sympathetic to critics or guardians who say the increase mirrored the attitude of the then People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)-led administration.

He appealed to the government to address the fall-out from the pay increases for ministers. “The coalition is obviously in need of a political strategy accompanied by a strong public relations plan to set them apart from the previous PPP government in terms of responsiveness to the people, reasonableness of actions, and respectfulness for norms of good governance,” said Lowe, known for his independent thinking.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon’s unapologetic reaction to questions about the pay-increases, which were not announced in the media but through the Official Gazette which is poorly circulation, has attracted widespread criticisms from sections of the public.

“I am not going to make any apology whatsoever for a minister getting an increase in salaries; they deserve it.”…hat is money I paid to one of my attorneys who worked with me when I was in private practice. Why should I be working for that? If you look at the cabinet, you will find people of quality who are in there, and so I believe that it is justifiable,” Harmon has said.

Tourism Minister, Cathy Hughes has added that the increase in ministers’ salaries was part of a package of measures to make elected officials less vulnerable to engaging in corrupt practices such as receiving bribes and kickbacks.

Ministers also have to abide by a code-of-conduct or they could be disciplined or fired.

The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) and the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) are among several organisations that have piled criticisms on the government for paying themselves more just after four months in office.

A Public Service Commisison of Inquiry is currently conducting hearings on issues such as salary scales and conditions of service.