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Govt asks Guyanese to “trust us” over “fair” ministerial salary increases

The President and his junior and senior ministers.

The Guyana government on Wednesday described its hike in ministerial salaries as “fair” and urged lowly paid government employees to “trust us.”

“We say to the people of Guyana to trust us. You trusted us with government on May 11th and we ask you to continue to trust and to believe in us,” Minister of Governance, Raphael Trotman told a news conference.

Asked to describe the 50 percent hike, Trotman called it “fair.” “Fifty percent is not astronomical, a hundred percent is astronomical, fifty percent is fair,” he said.

The privately-owned Kaieteur News newspaper reports that the Prime Minister’s taxable salary of GUY$1.5 million has been increased by 10.7 percent while the GUY$579,000 salary for a junior minister has been increased by 12.5 percent and for senior ministers by 50 percent. Vice Presidents have gotten a 60 percent hike on the GUY$579,000. The Attorney General’s salary of GUY$1.6 million has been increased by five percent.

He said the aim of the pay-hike for ministers was to address anomalies among government’s three branches- judiciary, executive and legislature- in keeping with trends across the Caribbean to ensure there is some parity. “I think if you were to do a comparative study of the salaries of government and judicial officers throughout the region, you would find that these are in no way, way above or far from what is the norm,” said Trotman. The Governance Minister noted that a High Court Judge receives more than GUY$1 million.

He acknowledged that increasing ministers’ salaries was not usually a popular decision and in some countries it has led to riots or the toppling of governments.

Trotman said government was also exploring the possibility of paying former parliamentarians higher pensions because many of them have been getting GUY$20,000 per month as part of efforts to address disparities.

With two proposals having been presented to Cabinet, he said a median was found between the two and one was accepted with some adjustments. Trotman declined to provide details of Cabinet’s deliberate decisions. “Cabinet actually rejected both proposals because both proposals that came from independent sources tagged the salaries beyond what was finally agreed on so Cabinet found a mean position, a compromise position between the two proposals and settled on what we have now,” he said.

Government had initially dismissed unconfirmed reports that the administration had been mulling an increase in salaries.

Guyanese only knew about the increases through the Official Gazette whose circulation is very limited.

The Guyana Trades Union Congress, Guyana Teachers Union, Red Thread and Transparency International have all criticised government for increasing ministers’ salaries after just four months in office.