Solomons Prime Minister says salary concerns are taxing
The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands says he acknowledges the public outrage over MPs' salaries being made tax free earlier this month by the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission.
The Prime Minister of Solomon Islands says he acknowledges the public outrage over MPs' salaries being made tax free this month.
Manasseh Sogavare says he will announce a range of measures to deal with what he calls the unpopular announcement, but has not said what steps he might take.
Koroi Hawkins reports.
It was definitely a Happy Easter for Solomon Islands MPs this year with their salaries becoming income tax free at the start of the month. On top of that MPs received a 7.5 % pay rise with 3.5% of this back dated to April last year. They will also get a two thirds increase in their discretionary funds, which are often called slush funds, and easier access to life pensions. Our correspondent Dorothy Wickham says Solomon Islanders are furious about the changes.
DOROTHY WICKHAM: Each average Solomon Islanders salary is very low. To hear of these hundreds and thousands of dollars being given to MPs and then also giving and increase in salary and then now they get tax taken away. I mean, there is no way a Solomon Islander will not disagree with this. Everyone is thinking my God, what else are they going to get?
The Parliamentary Entitlements Commission is a constitutional body whose job it is to review MPs salaries and entitlements on an annual basis, with its decisions coming into force automatically every year on April the first. The Commissions Chairman Johnson Siapu says the changes were made after careful consideration of the unique cultural and financial pressures placed on MPs by their constituents.
JOHNSON SIAPU: There are needs of constituents for example school fees, funerals, there are sea fares, reconciliations, medications. These are the kinds of context in which our politicians have been placed in. And so for them it is difficult to bill the things on their own, based on their own small salaries.
But the local anti-corruption watchdog Transparency Solomon Islands says MPs have brought this on themselves. TSI Chief Executive Daniel Fenua says in making these recent awards, the Commission has abused the powers entrusted to it under the constitution.
DANIEL FENUA: We have got people's reaction to the issue as being very unfair. If you look at the social media and we have got calls from the public and as well as some organisations. Calling on the government that they should review and to revoke especially the one with the MPs salaries are tax free at the moment.
After a sustained public outcry over the changes, prime minister Sogavare earlier this week released a media statement acknowledging the concerns raised.
MANASSEH SOGAVARE: I understand the PEC's decision has caused widespread anguish across the nation and I can understand where the citizens are coming from on this issue. The concerns raised by the public on the PEC's decision to award tax-free salaries to MPs are valid and as a responsible Prime Minister I am ready to propose measures that will adequately address these concerns.
The statement stops short of saying whether Mr Sogavare's proposed measures include the reinstatement of taxes on MPs salaries. Even if it does the Solomon Islands constitution states it will not come into effect until April the first next year.
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