JIS News

The House of Representatives yesterday (November 29), gave the nod to a Bill amending the Pensions (Prime Minister Act) to provide enhanced pension benefits to retired Prime Ministers and their surviving spouses or children.
Finance and Planning Minister, Dr. Omar Davies who piloted the Bill, said it was unfortunate that the Bill, which has been long in gestation, was just being brought to Parliament. He noted, however, that the delay in bringing the Bill to the House “was related to the reluctance of the former Prime Ministers to pilot the amendments which might have been seen as being beneficial to them”.
The Minister pointed out that the adjustments served to ratify the 1992 Cabinet decision permitting the payment of specific allowances to the surviving spouse of a Prime Minister or a former Prime Minister.
“What we are seeking to do with this amendment is to ratify what we have been doing over the last 13 years in terms of payments and I think they are just payments,” the Finance Minister said, noting that the Bill provided for former Prime Ministers and their widows the same treatment which is accorded to former Governors General.
The amendment allows for the pension of a retired Prime Minister, to be the annual salary being accorded to the Office of Prime Minister, or two thirds of the annual salary applied to the Office of Prime Minister, if the individual is no longer the Prime Minister but has not retired from office as a legislator. The Bill also allows for the payment of specific allowances to a retired Prime Minister.
Dr. Davies emphasized that, “the matter wasn’t one to elicit controversy, as the position of Prime Minister deserves to be treated with no less respect and recognition than that of the Governor General”.
Opposition Leader, Bruce Golding said while it was necessary that the appropriate provisions be made to enable retired Prime Ministers to carry themselves with the dignity of the high office which they once held, “it (was) wrong to have undertaken these payments for 13 years without the legal authority” and without the Bill being brought to Parliament for discussion and approval, so it could be regularized.
“One has to assume that a matter that is as sensitive as that could not have been implemented without it being brought to attention and without the government being aware that you have no legal authority to do it,” Mr. Golding argued.
He pointed out that his remark was not meant, in any way, to minimize the quality of the contribution of such persons nor deny the responsibility to retired Governors General and Prime Ministers and their families.
Mr. Golding said the Opposition had no quarrel with the allowances being given under the current provision to spouses, but took issue with the amendments which would allow for the retired Prime Minister to be accorded 100 per cent of the current salary of the present Prime Minister.
He said the Opposition considered the arrangements under which a retired Prime Minister would get two thirds of whatever the salary amount that was being accorded to the Office of the Prime Minister at that time, “ample provision”.
“We are opposed to moving the pension of the Prime Minister beyond the current provision which is two thirds of whatever the Prime Minister’s salary is at any point in time,” Mr. Golding said. The Opposition Leader invited the government to bring a Bill, which would validate the payments made over the last 13 years. This Bill, he said, would be supported by the Opposition.
Replying, Minister Davies said the government accepted responsibility for the delay in bringing the amendments, but said the Opposition’s contribution to the debate lacked sincerity.