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Speaker of House – a full time job!

Speaker of House – a full time job!

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$38,736!

This is the correct amount by which the salary of the Speaker of the House of Assembly has been increased.

Since last week several figures have been floating around in the media.

The debate intensified during this week with Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves refuting claims that he is “taking care of one of the boys,” a reference to Hendrick Alexander, the current Speaker of the House of Assembly, and a former Senator in the St.Vincent and the Grenadines Labour Party.{{more}}

Justifying the increase of the Speaker’s salary from $30,072 to $68,808, Dr. Gonsalves said people need to be cognizant of his administration’s overall policy framework. He said it is his administration’s desire to lift the standards of the Parliament. Secondly, the Speaker has a number of functions to perform internationally. And with regard to the development of Parliament during this term, a modern Court House will be built which will house the Parliament. This will be constructed at Murray’s Road. The designs are expected to be done this year, the Prime Minister disclosed.

He added that the Speaker’s job is now a full time occupation instead of part time.

The Prime Minister is of the view that under the Unity Labour Party (ULP) administration, the work of the St.Vincent and the Grenadines Parliament is demanding with meetings averaging one day per working week when all the days of Parliament for the year are summed up.

He said the Speaker’s job, as it was, deprived his fulltime employers from maximizing his services as a senior employee, as he was most times away from the job on Parliament’s business.

“It is unreasonable to ask an employer to have someone in a senior position to take time off. And it is not fair for an employer to subsidize the state in relation to the office of the Speaker,” said Dr. Gonsalves.

“You restrict the pool of persons from whom you could draw to be Speaker of the House. More than that, there are so many things which the Speaker ought to be doing to lift the Parliament for us to have an active Commonwealth Parliamentary Association of which he is the president of the local branch, but the branch hardly functions,” said Dr. Gonsalves.

Instead, the Prime Minister challenged the Opposition to address the issue of the increase on the salary of the Clerk of the House of Assembly.

Before the ULP administration took office, the Speaker’s salary stood at just over $2,000 monthly while the Clerk held a Grade 8 post.

Upon taking office, the ULP administration increased the status of the Clerk to Grade 10, to a figure of $47,928 and has now lifted it to Grade 12, $56,320. Dr. Gonsalves said it is the Government’s desire that when persons take the Offices of the Speaker and Clerk they should see them as careers that they can pursue. For instance, in Barbados a senior lawyer holds the post of Clerk of the House and remains there for his or her lifetime, said Dr. Gonsalves adding the same principle stands for Jamaica.

The Prime Minister said he found the discussion on the Speaker’s salary increase to be one that reflects a mindset that is puny.

Dr. Gonsalves charged that the Opposition had ample opportunity during the debate of the Budget and the Estimates to address this issue but chose not to.

Parliamentarians’ salaries were settled on by the Finance Committee and it was disclosed by the Prime Minister that the Opposition members did not turn up at this meeting.

The Prime Minister’s salary was increased from $112, 728 to $117, 804 while the Leader of the Opposition’s salary was increased from $73, 860 to $77, 184.

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