Thu | Jul 25, 2024

Put salary increase in context

Published:Wednesday | June 7, 2023 | 12:58 AM


I’ve listened earnestly to the ongoing debate on politicians’ massive salary increases announced recently by Finance Minister Nigel Clarke. One of the main issues put forward is the constant comparison to CEO salaries in big private corporations. I really don’t see how we can compare CEO salaries in the private sector.

The private and public sectors are completely different.

Private sector exists for profit, and employees, including CEOs, are recruited through intensive and competitive job searches based on qualifications and expertise.

Politicians are elected to serve, they are not recruited. Organisations justify salaries based on many factors, including market trends, industry and profit. A corporation will not pay a salary of $100 million to a CEO without justifying the return on investment, in terms of profit. Every job in the private sector is rationalised in terms of profitability.

Most politicians aren’t qualified to function as CEOs and couldn’t survive a day in these jobs, so why relate the salaries? There is no country where private and public sector salaries are in sync or overlap. Private sector exists for profit; people are drawn to politics for service, the power, prestige and other perks you won’t find in the private sector.

Salaries in public sector are not competitive with private, but the sector tends to offer more allowances, benefits, vacation time, etc.


It is fair to say that most MPs are not driven by pay. Many have other business interests and side hustles which are allowed. This is not to say that they shouldn’t receive adequate compensation. However, I am not aware of any market for political jobs which some have asserted; political jobs are very limited in numbers and there is no demand or supply influencing salaries which should be paid in context.

The governor general’s salary, after the increase, of $34 million, for example, is absolutely absurd. The GG of Jamaica will now rank among the highest paid in the Caribbean, earning three to four times more than most of his counterparts in the region. Jamaica’s GG salary will now be on par with the GG of Canada, a country with a population 13 times bigger than Jamaica and much wealthier. Obviously, the scope of responsibilities will be vastly different. This salary makes no sense.

Our GDP per capita income is one of the lowest in the Caribbean, which is indicative of the economy and what the country can afford as reasonable increases. Most Jamaicans live in poverty, and many workers struggle to live. This is why politicians should be more sensitive to the bigger picture.

The PM and team should’ve strategised a more effective way to communicate and implement the massive increases over time, with justification based on logic that makes sense.

The best option now is to order a full independent review of the increases and make adjustments where necessary. The public might be more accepting of increases after an independent review.