Members of the Judiciary are reportedly pleased with the recommendations for salary increases that have been made by the Salaries Review Commission (SRC) in its 98th report.
The report gives treatment to members of the Judiciary which can be viewed as favourable when compared with other top office holders in the country.
The SRC recommended the salary of the Chief Justice be increased from $40,500 (tax-free) to $50,350 (tax-free), with an increase in the housing allowance from $15,450 to $28,000 (tax-free). This represents a total increase of $22,400 for the Chief Justice.
It recommended that the salary for judges of the Appeal Court be increased from $35,800 (tax-free) to $42,020 (tax-free), and puisne judges from $30,000 to $37,300 (tax-free). The SRC recommended an increase in the housing allowance of judges of the Appeal Court and puisne judges from $10,300 (tax-free) to $24,000 tax-free. The report recommended judges receive $69,000 a year as an overseas travel grant and a judicial contact allowance of $118,000 a year. Both allowances are tax-free.
The report recommended judges (including the Chief Justice) have the following medical benefits: all costs associated with medical attention and treatment for himself, his spouse and children under the age of 18 years. It excludes optical, dental and all prescription drugs which can be obtained without a prescription.
The SRC has also recommended an increase in the salary of Cabinet ministers from $33,000 to $41,000 a month. For non-Cabinet ministers the SRC recommended a salary of $33,000, up from $27,000. It also suggested ministers—both Cabinet and non-Cabinet—are given an increase in housing allowance from $10,300 to $12,350 a month.
The SRC suggested an increase in the Prime Minister’s salary from $48,000 to $59,000. The Prime Minister is provided for with an official residence and there is no recommendation for a housing allowance. However, the SRC has recommended an increase in the duty allowance for the Prime Minister of $8,900, up from $7,500 a month.
The President, like the Prime Minister, is afforded an official residence. But unlike the Prime Minister, if the President is living in his personal house, the SRC has recommended he be paid a housing allowance of $28,000 a month tax-free. The report recommended an increase in monthly salary from $49,500 to $64,270 a month (tax-free) for the nation’s highest office-holder. The report also recommended an increase in the duty allowance for the President—from $7,500 to $9,650 (tax-free).
According to the SRC report, the President is also entitled to all costs associated with medical attention and treatment for himself, his spouse and children under the age of 18 years who are unmarried. This includes optical and dental.
The SRC report recommended the Opposition Leader’s salary should increase from $23,800 to $29,000. It recommended a housing allowance for the Opposition Leader of $12,360, up from $10,300 and a transport allowance of $5,800, up from $4,900. The SRC recommended a salary of $29,000 monthly, up from $23,800 for the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. It also recommended a transport allowance of $4,900 and $4,500 monthly and a housing allowance for the two presiding officers.
The SRC recommended members of the House of Representatives without portfolio (those who are not ministers, parliamentary secretaries, opposition leader or a presiding officer) be given an increase from $14,000 to $17,400. There is no recommendation for a housing allowance for these MPs. All elected MPs, those with and those without portfolio, should receive an increase in transport allowance to $6,600, up from $5,500, the SRC report recommended.
The recommendation for senators, without portfolio, is a salary increase from $10,500 to $13,000 a month, plus a transportation allowance of $4,500.
The 98th report of the SRC is currently before the Cabinet for consideration. Under the Constitution the SRC’s role is simply to recommend the remuneration of the top office-holders of the three arms of State (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary). These recommendations can be accepted by the Cabinet or rejected. In accepting or rejecting it, the Cabinet could introduce changes to the recommendations before implementation. Cabinet is expected to table the report in Parliament after it has considered the recommendations.
The top office-holders got no salary increases since 2005. The 24 per cent increase across the board for the most part—except for the President, whose increase was 30 per cent—is more or less equivalent to the increases given to the general public service over the period of time. The SRC is required to submit a report with recommendations for the compensation package for the top office-holders every three years. The last report, which is online, was done in 2009 and covered the period 2008 to 2011.
The 2013 report represents the first significant adjustment since 2005. But appearing to offset the recommended increases in salaries and allowances is the SRC recommendation that the exemption from Motor Vehicle Tax, VAT and customs duties—from which a considerable number of office-holders benefitted—be limited. Sources said there is a concern this recommendation in particular appears to be disadvantageous to a wide cross-section of public office-holders who have enjoyed the transport facilities in previous years.
While the SRC report recommended a limit in all these tax exemptions for vehicles purchased by members of the Executive and Legislative arms of State, it recommended incumbents in the Judiciary (who also have enjoyed this benefit over the years), should retain their full exemptions. This is because under the law, members of the Judiciary cannot have their terms and conditions varied to their disadvantage.
According to the report, a minister of Government is entitled to medical attention and treatment for himself, his spouse and children under the age of 18 years. (This excludes optical, dental and all prescription drugs which can be obtained without a prescription). The SRC made no recommendation for medical benefits for the Opposition Leader and members of the House and Senate without portfolio.