JIS News

Minister of Information, Senator Burchell Whiteman has emphasized that suggestions that an amendment to the Pensions (Prime Minister) Act was now being introduced because of the impending retirement of any Prime Minister, were misconceived.
“This is something, which has been in force since 1992 and we accept responsibility for not having brought the matter to Parliament in the proper way before. The matter has to be corrected,” Senator Whiteman stated at yesterday’s (May 16) post Cabinet Press briefing at Jamaica House.
“There has been a lot of comments and some discussions recently about what is being described as ‘a new change’ to the pension legislation affecting Prime Ministers. This is not something, which has suddenly been decided upon. Changes to the provisions for pensions for Prime Ministers and their surviving spouses has been addressed by the Cabinet seven times since1974,” he pointed out.
Amendments to the legislation were in fact approved by Cabinet in the years, 1974, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1996. In 1986, Senator Whiteman said, a very important decision was made. “At that time, the Prime Minister’s pension was set at $6,000 annually. Decision was taken to move the (former) Prime Minister’s annual pension to two thirds of whatever the (current) Prime Minister’s annual salary was at the time,” he pointed out.
In 1990, further changes were made to the provisions for retired Governors General, retired Prime Ministers and their surviving spouses. Then, Senator Whiteman said, in 1991, “attention was drawn to the fact that the pension for retired Governors General had been set at the annual rate of the actual salary of the existing Governor General. That is to say, a Governor General in retirement would receive the same pension as a Governor General in office”.
In the following year, Cabinet approved an increase in the annual pension for retired Prime Ministers, on the same basis as that of the Governor General’s pension. In effect, a retired Prime Minister would receive an annual pension equivalent to the annual salary of the Prime Minister of the day.
“Other amendments were made relating to the pension for widows of Prime Ministers, allowances for dependent child upon the death of a Prime Minister and cessation of a widow’s pension upon re-marriage and matters of that kind, including provision for staff support,” he added.
The Minister stressed that the alignment of the Prime Minister’s pension to the salary of a current Prime Minister had been “a process over many years, but the regrettable fact is that despite the Executive decision from 1990 having been implemented, the law was not amended to reflect those decisions, so since 1990, the appropriate ministry has been acting as if these decisions were reflected in law”.
“This is not a good thing, we understand that. What is being brought now to public attention is not something that is new or being recently introduced,” he stated.
The Parliamentary Salaries Review Committee, Senator Whiteman said, had recommended that the arrangements that had been made by Executive decision in regard to the pension and other benefits payable to a former Prime Minister, should be continued. The Committee also recommended that a person should serve at least two years as Prime Minister before qualifying for a pension.

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