Minister of Education Ronald Jones has hit back at critics, who have questioned the timing of Government’s move to restore a ten per cent pay cut imposed on parliamentarians back in 2014.
“If not now, when?” asked Jones, while insisting that affected Members of Parliament (MPs) had a right to have their salaries restored.
And he urged Barbadians not to be hoodwinked by propaganda being circulated on the issue.
“Your salary is your property and you should not deprive anyone of their salary,” said Jones, who is currently embroiled in a dispute with unionized teachers over recent salary deductions made by his ministry.
However, dealing specifically with MPs pay, he argued that “you may voluntarily give up your salary as we [parliamentarians] did, but if the time has elapsed you have a right to your property.
“Some people may say it is not timely and I always argue, when ever is the right time? Because sometimes you get into a guessing game: Will the economy have to grow 50 per cent, 30 per cent, 20 per cent or ten per cent? Will the fiscal deficit have to go to zero and you get a surplus?”
Addressing a branch meeting of the St George South constituency at the weekend, Jones was at pains to point out that parliamentarians had endured the cuts for about 30 months in support of Government’s fiscal consolidation programme.
He said with clear signs that the economy was improving, Government had started to provide some ease for Barbadians, as he argued that MPs should not be excluded.
“We have seen some improvement. We need more improvement, but at the same time you recognized since you are in charge of economic affairs that you don’t want to keep that tightness on the citizens. So you would allow the Consolidated Tax to come off. There was a tax on banks and credit unions; the credit union tax has also abated,” he explained.
Adamant that the restoration was not a raise in pay, Jones said he was caught off guard when that charge was levelled in Parliament during the recent no confidence debate by Opposition Leader Mia Mottley.
“I want you to understand that it is not a salary increase. It is a simple restoration as happened in 1994/95 when there was the reversal of the eight per cent cut,” Jones assured the gathering of ruling Democratic Labour Party supporters.
The Mottley-led Opposition Barbados Labour Party has refused to accept the ten per cent restoration, instead committing the increased funds to charity.
However, the Minister of Education warned the public not to be duped by “propaganda” as he also rubbished reports that the re-instatement of pay would result in higher gratuities for parliamentarians.
“The propaganda was to try and conflict and confuse the mind,” he said, while noting that it drove the National Union of Public Workers to call for a 23 per cent pay hike.
“And I said what madness have we descended into.”