Pay rises in tough times

It is easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to our story “Lean Times? Not for some” in this week’s edition of the Observer on Sunday.

Looking at it one way, a reader could simply ask how the government could afford or even countenance allowing these raises while facing budget deficits and cutbacks during the worst worldwide economy since the 1930’s.

In another way, one could ask why the newspaper would make it a point to list every salary increase given over the period and the reasons for that pay hike. The private sector often rewards its top employees for excellent work or promotions earned, why should the government not do the same?

The devil – as he usually does – exists in the details.

During times of fiscal crisis especially, any and all public entities should be required to account for their spending. What normally would have been done as a matter of course in the civil service cannot be “business as usual” right now.

This is not to say that all of these pay raises were not necessary, far from it. Indeed, some explanations for the pay increases we have received make perfect sense to us.

Others do not.

Sorry, but “filling in gaps in the organisational chart” is not a sufficient reason for a 30 per cent pay increase in our view.

What we hope is that civil service leaders – as they have been prompted to do by their employees association – will take stock of what has happened in each case and demand financial accountability for each decision. These pay hikes must be fully explained. Anything less is a betrayal of the fiduciary duty and trust required of and placed in this government by its taxpayers.

There may be some in the government service who are upset by the facts contained in the story or the opinions expressed in this editorial. Good.

The public service must operate in a more open and transparent manner, there can be no excuses for not doing so. Welcome to the new world of Freedom of Information and open government enshrined in Cayman’s Constitution.

Let’s make it work for the betterment of all.