[www.inewsguyana.com] – Former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds has taken Minister of State Joseph Harmon to task for accusing former PPP/C Ministers of “accepting low salaries because they were thieving money all over the place’.
See below full text of the former Prime Minister Sam Hinds’ comment:
“Perhaps we could and should take this outburst as just another instance of the ‘fish-market busing down’ that is being dished out at us. What is of greater concern however, is what this whole affair might reveal about the beliefs and attitudes of the Honourable Minister and our current Administration, and the signals it is giving: that there are set levels of salaries which sensible, bright persons will insist on. Only dull, ‘thiefing’ people will accept less. What else can we think, since they would have known the salary levels before they took office and appear to have assumed office with the clear intention of raising their salaries, even before any work was done.
When I became Prime Minister in October 1992, the PM’s gross pay was about 70% of what I was being paid in Guymine/ Linmine, about thirty- something thousand dollars per month as far as I could remember. Then I learnt that PAYE, NIS and a contribution to a Parliamentary pension had to be deducted: not much to take home. But that was where we and our country were in 1992. It was from such an understanding that we, PPP/C Ministers, accepted the job to be leaders in the growth and development of our people and country: growing our economy and improving our people’s well being.
Even with the very low Ministerial salaries then, much below the salaries of many Permanent Secretaries, we did not make raising Ministers salaries the first order of business. That the Prime Minister’s gross salary about US $ 300 per month in 1992,can now be set at over US$ 8,000 per month in 2015, must speak loudly about some degree of success, some achievements of the PPP/C Administration. Very much so! As I observed in a note to the recent twentieth biennial Congress of the GPSU, that in spite of all the mistrust and contentions, the minimum wage of public servants has at the same time been increased from under US $ 30 to above US$ 175 / month, and housing and vehicle ownership amongst public servants have greatly improved.
It was not easy, not all smooth sailing, calling for much sacrifice of Ministers and their families (as it was for all of our citizens), much doing without, much cutting and contriving. It was not about ‘thiefing money all over the place’ but about contributing to the development of our people and country. Some appreciation would be expected for the much better wicket on which the new Administration finds itself.
Mr. Editor, my fellow Guyanese, hurt as I am, I am even more concerned when I read that the Honourable Minister went on to say further, ‘ and so we must pay people well if we want them to perform’. How is this ‘paid well’ to be assessed and set, and from where does the money come? Is it that people who are not performing, are not being paid well? And is it that people who are not being paid well would not be performing? Is there not to be any sense of service, duty or patriotism? I have heard the Hon. Minister claiming at an earlier time that ‘if you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys.’ But what if all the harvest we have, are peanuts?
Let me say clearly before I am misunderstood. We of the PPP/C want much better salaries. We want all our people working well and being paid well – that is what we have been always working for. But the good pay which we all want and need is the outcome of our work and many things within and outside our control. That
good pay we need cannot be set by any fiat: rather it is the need for that good pay which drives us to apply ourselves, hopefully better each day, and to put up with and work with many persons whom otherwise we would not want to be near.
Mr. Editor, the salaries of Cabinet members as we left them in May 2015 were reasonable and livable for where Guyana is now. What is of great concern is that in the presence of difficulties in gold, rice, bauxite and sugar, salary increases for the Cabinet has been the top priority. Recall that we had our difficulties too in 1992, with bauxite ( the inherited agreement which eventually called for closure; Alcoa buying out Reynolds then notifying us of plans to withdraw); gold ( prices falling from about US$ 500 /oz to US$ 255/oz); rice with its ups and downs in the European and other markets and sugar perennially challenging. We held off from increasing the salaries of Cabinet members relative to others for ten years, not because we were ‘ thiefing’ but because we felt we needed to hold the strain that we were asking of others.
Mr. Editor, my fellow Guyanese, the problem we of the PPP/C fear about this affair is that the stage is being set for another inflationary spiral, heaven forbid, such as our people and country had to endure from shortly after independence unto 1992. When I joined the bauxite company (DEMBA) in McKenzie as a fresh, young engineer in 1967, I received a handsome pay (for Guyana at that time) of G$750 per month. A brand new motor car then, was priced at G$ 4,000 with tax included. As I tried to accumulate the down payment, prices were rocketing and I closed my eyes and bought a brand new car in 1973 for G$ 16,000, a fourfold increase in six years! As inflation continued at faster rates than pay increases, I could not overhaul the engine in 1990 and sold that car after coming to office in 1992, for G$ 300,000 at which time the price for a brand new car with all taxes paid was approaching four million Guyana dollars! That is a vivid presentation of the inflation we had experienced and which we, the PPP/C, had to take account of in 1992. It is our tight financial discipline which might have seemed mean but which was very necessary against that background of two and a half decades of rampant inflation, which is to be thanked for our progress since 1992. That discipline should not be compromised – we are not yet out of the woods.
The belittling and making trite of, rather than acknowledging and recognizing the challenge in the great improvement which there has been during our PPP/C years, does nothing for national cohesion or for our prospect for continued growth and development.”