Well-paid MPs must earn their keep


THE revelation by a first-time MP of how much he earns in a fortnight should rekindle healthy debate on the matter.
How much the Papua New Guinea taxpayers pay their members of parliament is no state secret and Madang MP Bryan Kramer has done the right thing by stating publicly what he and his colleagues are getting paid from the national purse.
According to his information, ordinary MPs like him are paid over K12,700 in net salary and allowances a fortnight while the Speaker, ministers, the Opposition Leader, parliamentary committee chairmen and governors are paid a lot more.
The gross fortnightly salary is K4038, from which a tax of K1274 and 15 per cent superannuation are deducted, leaving a take-home pay of K2158 per fortnight.
This is comparable to what a middle or senior manager in a medium-size company would receive.
However, what may leave a few middle or senior business executives unsettled is that unlike them, the MPs’ allowances totalling over K10,000 per fortnight are tax-free.
MPs receive allowances for accommodation, electoral visits, vehicles used in their electorates, vehicle operating costs and utilities.
Generally, in the private sector and other public sector organisations such allowances are taxed.
All up, an ordinary MP receives more than K331,000 per annum or K1.6 million over a five year term.
Multiply that by 111 MPs (although some receive more) we arrive at a conservative figure of K36.7 million per annum in salaries and allowances.
On top of the sitting MPs’ salaries and allowances, the parliamentary accounts department also takes care of pensions for former MPs as well.
That, along with other public service salaries and wages, takes up a fair slice of the national budget.
The first-time Madang MP who is becoming something of a maverick, argues that his motive in revealing what he earns fortnightly is to expose what he believes are unfair and unjust systems and processes in the country.
He may have angered some of his colleagues in parliament who would not want such “sensitive” information to be made public.
However, the taxpayer is entitled to such information and to ask pertinent questions.
Salaries of parliamentarians are determined by the Salaries and Remuneration Committee. That same committee also sets terms and conditions for constitutional office holders, departmental heads and judges. In their position, parliamentarians can easily vote pay increases for themselves, despite a few dissenting voices.  The last time this happened was in 2010 when parliamentarians gave themselves a hefty pay rise.
There may be some justification for a pay rise to cover the rapidly rising cost of living but it is the ordinary citizen who is hurt the most.
MPs and other highly paid public office holders and business executives are largely insured from the harshly realities affecting most citizens.
For the kind of money paid to the country’s MPs much is expected from them, not only ministers and parliamentary committee members.
We might even venture to ask what an MP actually does in a fortnight to be paid such a high salary, topped up with allowances.
All organisations, both private and public, have their star workers, the average performers and those who could be labelled free-riders.
Truth be told, this is also the case in the PNG Parliament because there have been one too many non-performing MPs throughout the history of the institution.
Such MPs hardly contribute to debate on matters of national importance or represent their electorates in any constructive manner on the floor of parliament.
Yet they get to enjoy the perks and privileges that come with the job, irrespective of whether they give their all to it.
Just like any other employee who gets paid for what he produces for the employer, an MP must be seen to earn his keep.
Kramer ought to be commended for being forthright in his endeavour to expose what he believes is unfair.
He is one member in this parliament to follow by both those who admire him or loathe him.