June 21, 2019

Cook Islands PM’s pay tops $152,000 as MPs get big pay hike

Cook Islands taxpayers will pay an extra $700,000 (US$461,000) a year to meet MPs’ massive salary increase.

The unpopular 45 per cent pay rise was approved by the Executive Council this week and comes into effect on 01 July.

The increase will see the prime minister’s salary rise from $105,000 to $152,250 (US$100,329) and the deputy prime minister’s earnings increase from $95,000 (US$62,000to $137,750 (US$90,779).

Cabinet ministers, the speaker of Parliament and the leader of the opposition, who are sitting on $85,000(US$56,000) each, will have their salaries jump to $123,250(US$81,223).

The remaining MPs’ $50,000 (US$32,951) base salaries will increase to $72,500 (US$47,450) with additional allowances for those like the deputy speaker with extra responsibilities. The Queen’s Representative, who is paid under the Civil List Act 2005, will also receive a pay rise.

The executive council’s decision was based on the recommendation of a three-member Remuneration Tribunal chaired by Fletcher Melvin.

The tribunal, which also comprised members Antony Will and Makiroa Mitchell-John, took into account the increase in salaries of senior public servants, the consumer price index and the state of the economy over the years before recommending the pay rise.

Opposition leader Tina Browne, whose Democratic Party opposed the 45 per cent pay rise, said her MPs would collect their pay rise – but “use it to assist with their constituency work and obligations”.

“While we do not oppose a review of wages, we do not believe that a 45 per cent hike is justified,” Browne said.

“Everyone in Parliament seem to agree that increase for public servants should be performance-based. So how can one explain the hike for parliamentarians? It cannot possibly be performance-based when Parliament sits an average of eight days a year over the last eight years.

“Public servants get a minimum wage increase of 35 cents (0.01 per cent) increase but MPs get a 45 per cent increase.”
Browne said the Demo’s MPs should have been part of the discussion, claiming but for one meeting with the tribunal, they were conveniently left out of the discussions.

“In a nutshell this government has given themselves (and us by default) a huge pay rise, $200,000(US$191,131) extra for travel, $290,000 (US$131,812) for a seventh minister, plus salary and perks for that minister … and they had the nerve to name the budget as the Budget of Love – more like budget of love of ourselves!”

Deputy prime minister Mark Brown, who initiated the pay rise issue in the April sitting, said it was timely that the MPs have had a review of salary after 15 years.

“I don’t think anyone would be happy to sit on the same salary for that long.  I am happy that the Remuneration Tribunal took into account a number of factors in recommending the increases which included staying in line with the rate of increase of public service employees over the same period of time,” Brown said.

SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACENWS
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