The Malta Independent 24 August 2019, Saturday

Pay rise proposal: ‘Unlike the PN, the Prime Minister took a decision’

Neil Camilleri Friday, 9 January 2015, 11:00 Last update: about 6 years ago

There is a stark contrast in the way the government and the Opposition have dealt with the pay rise-for-politician proposal, with the former having resorted to a transparent process and taken a political decision, a government spokesman told The Malta Independent.

Government Head of Communications Kurt Farrugia was reacting to a PN press release that called on the Prime Minister to admit that his five-year campaign on the honoraria issue was "hypocritical and deceitful".

Mr Farrugia said Prime Minister Joseph Muscat does not agree with a pay rise for politicians but appointed a commission to review the salaries of politicians in order to set a standard. This was done in line with a PL electoral pledge.

The government spokesman said the commission has now set a benchmark but only a political decision could see the report implemented. "The Prime Minister has taken that political decision and decided that there will be no pay rise for politicians, neither in this legislature nor in the next." Mr Farrugia insisted that the process was completely transparent and the report will be published at a later stage in Parliament.

He also noted that the PN has not yet declared if it agrees or not with the commission's proposals and said it was left up to the party to take a stand on the issue.

The contents of the report were published by The Malta Independent on Sunday. The report, which was sent to all three main political parties, suggests a pay increase for top politicians, including the President, Prime Minister, leader of the Opposition and Speaker of the House. It proposes that the PM's salary should increase from the current €51,000 to €94,900 and the President's should be increased from €56,000 to €95,000. The salaries of ministers and parliamentary secretaries, the leader of the Opposition and the Speaker are recommended to be raised to over €70,000.

Perhaps the most controversial proposal is for MPs to become full-time. The report proposes a full-time salary of €59,000, replacing the current €20,000 honoraria. It recommends that, if Parliament should not be full-time, MPs would earn half the amount - €30,000.

In its initial reaction on Sunday, the Office of the Prime Minister hinted that it would be willing to discuss the full-time MPs proposal. It said: "There are points made in the report regarding the role of members of parliament that merit discussion." 


PN's refusal to take a clear stand

On the other hand, the PN has been non-committal on the report and its recommendations.

Contacted by The Malta Independent earlier this week, a number of PN MPs agreed that politicians in Malta are underpaid; however, none actually said they agreed with the pay rise recommendations.

In an official statement on Sunday, the PN blasted Muscat's "hypocrisy" and said the Prime Minister would not have commissioned the report if he did not agree with a salary increase. However, the party has so far not expressed itself in favour or against the recommendations. When asked for a comment on Tuesday, two PN MPs, Jason Azzopardi and Claudette Buttigieg, sent us a party statement saying that the PN would be willing to consider any pay rise proposal only after Dr Muscat admits his hypocritical honoraria campaign. The PN also said it certainly did not agree that the Prime Minister's salary should increase by €1,000 a week.


PN, PL with hands tied

From an analytical point of view it seems that both parties ruined any chance of a future pay rise some years back, during the honoraria fiasco. For the Labour Party, which criticised the PN endlessly over the way Lawrence Gonzi's Cabinet "gave itself a €500 weekly raise," it would be political suicide to agree with a pay rise for ministers and MPs. The PL would no doubt be branded hypocritical by the Nationalists.

On the other hand, if the PN agreed with a proposed pay rise it would be accused of repeating the honoraria mistake all over again. After all, it was Lawrence Gonzi's Cabinet which decided to refund the increase in parliamentary honorarium and then ditched the whole thing altogether. After all the hurt caused by the honorarium issue, the PN can never again, at least for a few more years to come, agree with an increase in salary. 

The only political party that can openly agree with the proposals is Alternattiva Demokratika, but then again, AD does not have any MPs who can benefit from a pay rise.



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