Letter to the Editor: High salaries an insult

The latest development in the saga
that has become the salary cuts for MLAs reached new lows as the government
took to the airwaves justifying the new 3.2 per cent cuts instead of the
originally proposed 20-30 per cent cuts. 
The arguments put forth were as follows:

 1- After doing the math, the MLAs realised
that if they were to take the originally proposed 20 per cent salary cuts their
chief officers would be earning more than them. 
This, we are told, would be contrary to the wishes of the people of the
Cayman Islands as we would not take kindly to our elected officials earning
less than their chief officers; and

 2- The cuts to MLA salaries would not actually
provide a substantial savings to the government and much more time and effort
were being better spent on looking for those more substantial savings.

 Let us begin with the second point for it a
question of mathematics and not reasoning:

 15 MLAs x $120,000 (on average) = $1,800,000

15 MLAs x $96,000 (original 20 per
cent cut) = $1,440,000

 Savings to the country: $360,000

15 MLAs x $120,000 (on average) =
$1,800,000

15 MLAs x $116, 160 (new 3.2 per
cent cut) = $1,742,400

 Savings to the country: $57,600

Does a $360,000 saving look like a
small sum in comparison to a projected $50,000,000 deficit? No doubt about it.
But it doesn’t take a mathematician to see that it looks eons better ($302,400
to be exact) than a $57,600 saving.

It is not like any of us expected
that the MLA salary cut would be the end all and be all of our budgetary woes.
It is one step, perhaps small but nonetheless necessary, in getting the country
back to where it needs to be. 

The first point is much trickier to
address because quite frankly it is simply offensive.

The people of this country have,
for some time now, questioned the salaries of civil servants, particularly
those in top ranking positions. In fact, government’s flip flopping on the
issue of those salary cuts has created a rift between private and public sector
workers as it appears that a line was drawn in the sand when the question of
taxation was posed.

If MLAs too are having reservations
about maintaining what some may call extravagant pay grades as they currently
exist, especially in this economic crisis, then they need to simply own up to their
feelings and voice them as such.

To project these reservations,
however, on what “the people” will think/feel is nothing short of cowardly.

If it is the comparison of the size
of your check to those of your subordinates’/ colleagues’ that fuels your sense
of credibility/authority/confidence/ego that allows you to do your job and not
the fact that it was the popular vote that has given you that very right to
make decisions then we, as a country, are in much bigger trouble than any of us
imagined.

It is the integrity of our elected
representatives and their ability to make tough decisions for the betterment of
the country which is of concern and of highest priority to a great many voters
in this country. Representatives can, while taking on such a duty to serve,
make a proper living wage so that they can devote the necessary time to the
responsibilities of the post and also not be easily swayed by special interests
with deep pockets is a safeguard of the democratic process. At no point was
that safeguard intended to hold a nation for ransom.

The original arguments in favour of
increasing the MLAs’ salaries was to make it comparable to those of CEOs,
executives, and other such prestigious posts, and to bring the remuneration of
the representatives up to par to some perceived status which the post
(supposedly) unequivocally requires.

If that rationale is to hold water
as to why this level of remuneration should be maintained then the expectations
normally attached to those CEOs and execs who make those six figure salaries
must also stand.

What CEO who has failed to make
his/her company a substantial profit would not only keep his/her job but also
continue to pocket his/her hefty pay check?

This latest redirection to “how the
people will feel” serves to add insult to a string of injuries that the
residents of these Islands have been feeling. Why, one asks, must we make the
sacrifice on our measly to modest salaries, where an extra $100 a month truly
makes a difference, in order to maintain someone else’s $100,000+ lifestyle?

Yet there is another question that
needs to be asked: What can you know of our economic struggle when your pay
check is equivalent to three/four/five of ours?

The bottom line is simple: stop
deflecting, backsliding, recanting and just do the right thing for the country.
The response to the declaration that a motion would be introduced to put the
original cuts back on the table for a vote should be an indication of how the
people feel.

Both parties have underestimated us
for far too long. The introduction of the motion is merely a first step and we
are watching to see how it will all play out, make no mistake.

A 20 per cent cut of a $120,000
salary is not a sacrifice. It is a modicum of respect for those you represent.
The real sacrifice is made every day by those who are living on a salary
equivalent to that 20 per cent with which you are so unwilling to part.

Carolina Ferreira

1 COMMENT

  1. Very nicely presented. The most resounding sentimene tto me me was your reference to the fact that if MLA’s want to be paid like CEO’s then they must act like CEO’s and make tough decisions to make the country, like a business, productive and profitable.