Ghanaian Chronicle

Withdraw these huge salary increases

Date published: November 7, 2012

The President is reported to have asked Parliament to review the fat-cat salaries approved by the House for Members of the Executive. In essence, we are being told that President John Dramani Mahama is not happy with the jumbo-sized increases approved for himself and members of his cabinet, special aides, and other Article 71 office holders.

It is good that the President has bowed to public pressure. What this means is that the Head of State agrees with the concerns being expressed by the general populace. In a society with meagre earning power by the citizenry, it is preposterous for the executive to be paid such a king’s ransom.

Under the deal approved by Parliament, President John Dramani Mahama would receive a monthly salary of GH¢12,000. Papa Kwesi Bekoe Ammisah-Arthur is penciled in to be richer by GH¢10,500 every month. Ministers of state are to receive GH¢10,000, while deputy ministers rake in GH¢8,000 a month.

By every stretch of imagination, these are very obscene figures. But what makes the new wages even more abnormal is the directive to calculate the new wages with effect from January 2009. The Chronicle cannot recall any time in the history of labour agitation when workers had been advanced pay increases with retrospective effect from four years.

That is why the whole deal for Article 71 office holders stinks. The only means of dealing with the issue is to withdraw all the increases. The timing cannot be right. At a time when most workers are waiting on Christmas with trepidation, as a result of the lack of capital base with which to cheer up the family, it is insensitive to spring these huge increases of official wages on the people.

That is why we are not surprised that the President is talking of asking Parliament to review it.  Even then, we are not amused by the tactics being employed to make it look like the President was not aware of the deal, until it became public knowledge.

In the first place, it was the late Prof. John Evans Atta Mills who set up the committee. At that point in time, the President, who was his Vice-President, was head of the Economic Team. Even if he was not consulted at the time the committee was set up, he would have been privy to the content.

Secondly, the Majority Leader in Parliament is the President’s representative who moves the business of the House. Cletus Avoka is the President’s main link with the House. It is highly improbable for Mr. Cletus Avoka to move any business in the House without the knowledge of the executive. That is why the posture by the President over the executive salaries is a bit baffling.

We are in no doubt that the President was boxed into the corner by public opinion against the increases. If he has been embarrassed by the fat-cat salaries, Mr. Mahama should not pretend that he is truly ignorant about how the new salaries were arrived at. If he were that ignorant, it poses its own problem. It seems to suggest that the Head of State is someone who does not know how things around him were shaped. If he was aware, it creates the problem of the Head of State being economical with the truth.

In both scenarios, the President has some explanations to do. The Chronicle though, does not buy into the suggestion that the President has directed Parliament to review the wages. At the time the President was said to have given his directive for Parliament to review the obscene wages, the members had risen for their long vacation, which would also allow them to campaign to get re-elected.

Even if they should return, the cost of keeping them in the House, in terms of allowances, would be a huge loss to the state. This is a bizarre development that has needlessly been allowed to fester.

In our candid opinion, the only way out is to cancel the increases and think through other means of effecting minor increases. The state cannot afford the huge increases in salaries for Article 71 office holders. It is as simple as that!

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