The Malta Independent 26 May 2019, Sunday

TMID Editorial: MP pensions - Proposed amendments lead to inequality

Saturday, 10 March 2018, 09:38 Last update: about 2 years ago

When, a few years ago, a PN government had decided to increase the honoraria for MPs and then decided that cabinet members would still receive it apart from their government salary, all hell had broken loose.  Most of us remember the “€500 a week increase” storm, and how Lawrence Gonzi’s PN, after being attacked day and night over the increase, had made a u-turn and decided to scrap the whole thing and repay the money.

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Then, in 2013, this newspaper revealed that a government-appointed committee had recommended a significant pay rise for members of the Cabinet as well as the President, the Leader of the Opposition and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The committee has also proposed the introduction of full-time MPs, whose pay packets would essentially be tripled. The Office of the Prime Minister had told The Malta Independent that the PM did not agree with pay raises for politicians and that his position would remain consistent.

Now we are witnessing Act III, where the government and the Opposition (minus Partit Demokratiku) have agreed to introduce amendments which will allow MPs serving just one legislature to claim a parliamentary pension – instead of serving two five-year terms. MPs who do not serve a full term would still be entitled to a pro-rata pension.

Needless to say, the move was met with anger by common mortals who, even after working for 40 years, are not assured a two-thirds pension.

Many have argued that a lot of MPs do not deserve such treatment, especially those Members of Parliament who are often nowhere to be seen and who make no contribution at all.

Some feel that many MPs take their job too lightly; others point to the disappointing attendance rates. Recently released information shows that Parliamentarians have already missed 577 sittings in the first seven months of this legislature, even if, according to Speaker Anglu Farrugia, this is an improvement over previous years.

Some say that some of our MPs, apart from receiving their honorarium, already have generous salaries from their private practice, and that their future financial planning is already taken care of, not to mention the government MPs who have chairmanships and seats on government boards, with all the perks that come with the position.

In our own opinion there are a number of reasons why the proposed changes are unfair and foster a sense of inequality.

MPs already receive an uncapped pension after serving two terms. Common people have their pension capped at two-thirds. The amendments will mean that MPs now have to serve a shorter term to reach that golden apple.

This is especially unjust when many common mortals have lost out on a pension over a few missed NI payments, even if this was not their fault.

One might also say that the money that will be spent on these pensions – because the number of MPs who receive a pension will undoubtedly increase – would be better spent to improve the situation of the many pensioners who live on the edge of precariousness. We do acknowledge that improvements have been made and more are in the pipeline, but the situation remains far from ideal.

The proposed changes will also lead to inequality between MPs and other MPs because people who serve for five years will be entitled to the same pension of someone who serves for, say, 40 years in the House.

Let us be clear. We are not saying that MPs should not have a pension. What we are saying is that the current system, where MPs have to serve at least 10 years to receive a full pension, is better than what is being proposed.

Instead of going from one controversy to the next we believe, and we have stated this many times, that the time has come to go for full-time MPs.

That system would not only ensure that MPs truly earn their pensions but also reduce the possibility of conflict of interest and the temptation of corruption.

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