27 Jul 2006

Solomons PM defends massive pay rises

5:02 pm on 27 July 2006

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare, has defended massive pay rises for politicians and top officials, saying they'll curb corruption by reducing the temptation to steal government funds.

The opposition has criticised increases which will more than double the salaries of the prime minister, his ministers, the opposition leader and ordinary MPs.

Last week, the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission also approved big pay increases for the government's 26 permanent secretaries.

The Opposition Leader Fred Fono said the salary hikes and recent purchase of new government cars were "extravagant" and would drastically reduce the government's ability to implement its widely-publicised rural development policy.

But Mr Sogavare says the salary rises may help stamp out corruption within government because better wages lessens the temptation for public servants and politicians to divert public money to themselves.

Mr Sogavare says the new salary packages were small compared to the planned rural development package.