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Lawmakers shouldn’t determine their own salaries — Premier

Lawmakers shouldn’t determine their own salaries — Premier

Premier Dr Natalio Wheatley has argued that lawmakers should not be allowed to come up with how much they are being paid, suggesting that an independent body should be created to make such a determination instead.
Dr Wheatley gave that indication at a recent public service forum where he was responding to a question about pension reform.

“Right now we are having a compensation review for all public servants, and of course, it is fitting that an independent body must be able to look at not only public servants’ salaries but [also] legislators’ salaries,’ the premier said.

“The first problem is legislators shouldn’t be determining their own salaries,” he added. “It should be done by an independent body, and you should be paid based on your roles and your responsibilities; something that’s commensurate to your roles and your responsibilities.”

Additionally, Premier Wheatley proposed that pensions for lawmakers and public servants should be calculated based on formula and their salary, and not on allowances, as has been done in the past for lawmakers.

Dr Wheatley emphasised the need for contributory pension schemes that will not leave the government bankrupt as it tries to find ways of ensuring that both public officers and legislators have a pension they can live on. He further indicated that a proper actuarial study will be necessary to ensure any decisions made regarding pension reform are sustainable in the long term.

Greedy bill regret

Meanwhile, Premier Wheatley also acknowledged the great disparity between retirement benefits for legislators and public officers, expressing regret for his support of the much maligned ‘greedy bill’ for legislators and reiterating that it was a mistake to pass the law.

The ‘greedy bill’ is a reference to the Retiring Allowances (Legislative Services) Amendment Act, 2021, a law passed by the Premier’s Virgin Islands Party (VIP) that has received intense backlash from the public over its excesses doled out to lawmakers even when they are voted out of office.

But even as he acknowledged making mistakes in that regard, Premier Wheatley said he saw this as an opportunity to learn and to become a stronger leader in the future.

The Premier shared his view on the importance of a comprehensive social safety net which he said will ensure all seniors in the territory can survive after retirement.

Dr Wheatley expressed support for allowing public officers to leave the public service with a pension earlier than the current 25-year mark, arguing that this can be done as long as their pension reflects the amount of years they have served.

“We must allow persons to go on into the private sector and even give them incentives,” Dr Wheatley said. “Persons who have come and they’ve saved their money, they want to open a business; let’s help them open that business. Let’s free up space for other persons who have that passion and zeal in the public service.”

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