The Fiji Times: Public outcry over Fijians’ MPs pay rise

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Fiji Parliament . . . big salary increases for the President, Speaker, Ministers, Assistant Ministers, and MPs
Fiji Parliament . . . big salary increases for the President, Speaker, Ministers, Assistant Ministers, and MPs at a time when most Fijians face economic hardships. Image: Fiji Parliament/Fiji Times

EDITORIAL: By Fred Wesley, editor-in-chief of The Fiji Times

So 40 Fiji members of Parliament voted in favour of the Special Committee on Emoluments Report on the review of MPs’ salaries, allowances and benefits in Parliament on Friday.

Now that’s not going down well with the masses, with many venting their frustrations on social media. From the outset, it appears there are many people frustrated by the turn of events in the august house.

Many also sent in letters to the editor expressing their disappointment. There was the odd one out though, reflecting on the need for a pay rise for parliamentarians. So in effect, we have both ends of the spectrum covered.

The Fiji Times
THE FIJI TIMES

That’s democracy for you. People will have differing opinions on what constitutes the right action to take at this moment in our history.

Seven voted against the motion and five abstained.

There are differing opinions as well in the House.

The National Federation Party voted against the motion, pointing out their position was in accordance with the directive of the party.

Opposition leader Inia Seruiratu insisted government must be seen as an equal opportunity provider and an employer of choice.

In saying that, we reflect on a number of factors. They are intertwined with this change in financial status of our MPs.

There will be the line taken about the importance of the work and salary comparisons initially, the duration of their stint in Parliament, status and expectations from voters, and the argument about attracting and retaining professionals, against the impact this will have on our coffers, pinning down taxpayer dollars.

We have a scenario that isn’t a pleasant one at all. We have a competitive salary against timing, and expectations of a nation that isn’t well off at all.

We have a delicate situation. Sceptics will wonder about what is fair compensation against the financial strain this places on taxpayers.

Let’s face it. There are economic challenges, and this increase will no doubt be seen as an insensitive one.

For what it is worth, what we have now is a situation that raises the importance of transparency and public trust in government decisions.

There will be issues raised about the independence of the process, and references will no doubt be made back to earlier emolument committees, and the processes they followed.

There will be questions asked about the need for people independent of Parliament.

In saying that, we are reminded about the taxpayer having every right to hold our MPs up to scrutiny!

We again raise that delicate balance between effective governance and the concerns of the people!

Fred Wesley is editor-in-chief of The Fiji Times. Republished with permission.

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