23 May 2024

Fiji Members of Parliament set for a 138% pay rise, tax-free benefits

4:00 pm on 23 May 2024
Fiji Parliament in session this week. May 2024

Fiji Parliament in session this week. May 2024 Photo: Facebook / Parliament of the Republic of Fiji

A parliamentary committee is recommending salary increases of over 130 percent for Fiij's Members of Parliament, as well as sharp pay rises for the prime minister (22 percent) and the president (42 percent).

An ordinary MPs' salary will rise from FJ50,000 to FJ$100,000, the President's salary will increase from FJ$130,000 (non-taxable) to FJ$185,000, and the Prime Ministers salary will increase from FJ$263,000 to $320,000.

The base salary figures used to calculate the pay increases reflect the fact that parliamentarians took a 20 percent pay cut in 2020 in response to the Covid pandemic. For example, the Prime Minister took a pay cut from FJ$328,000 to FJ$263,000.

The Special Committee on Emoluments made up of MPs from both sides of the House - chaired by the Women's Minister Lynda Tabuya - released its report this week, which has received widespread criticism from Fijians on social media platforms.

The committee is recommending that all ministers should be on the same salary and their pay increased to FJ$200,000, as currently there are some variations in some minister's pay cheques.

They also want assistant ministers' salaries to be increased from FJ$90,000 to FJ120,000, the Speaker's salary increases from FJ$150,000 to $200,000, and the opposition leader's pay to go up by from FJ$120,000 to $200,000.

Additionally, the committee is recommending the reinstatement of tax and the duty-free vehicle purchases for Cabinet ministers, increase in the overseas travel per diems for the President and Prime Minister, an official residency for the Speaker and the opposition leader, and medical and life insurance for MPS with a coverage of FJ$100,000.

"It is incumbent upon Parliamentarians to serve the people faithfully and with charity (love). Nobody asked you to stand for Parliament. You asked to serve us.Take your pay and get on with the work (sic)," veteran news editor Netani Rika said on Facebook in response to the recommendations.

Lynda Tabuya at the opening of the 2024 Parliament session at the Parliament House in Suva on Monday. 4 March 2024

Women's Minister Lynda Tabuya Photo: Facebook / Fiji Government

'Utterly insensitive' and 'out of touch'

Civil society watchdog Dialogue Fiji also expressed "concern and disappointment" over the recommendations.

"At a time when the nation is grappling with economic challenges and the public is subjected to austerity measures and fiscal consolidation policies, it is utterly insensitive and inappropriate to propose such significant hikes in the compensation of MPs and statutory position holders," the organisation's executive director Nilesh Lal said.

"These recommendations are out of touch with the economic realities faced by the majority of Fijians and their sentiment."

"According to the recommendations endorsed by the committee, Members of Parliament would get a whopping 138% increase in salary, assistant ministers would get a 67% increase, the Speaker of Parliament would get a 47% increase, the Leader of Opposition would get a 108% increase, ministers would receive up to 35% increase, the Prime Minister would get a 22% increase, while the President would get a 42% increase in salary."

"The proposal also appears to include an increase in the overseas travel per diem for the President and Prime Minister, although the formula and explanations provided are somewhat confusing."

Lal said if the recommendations are implemented it would result in the highest compensation for MPs and statutory position holders in Fiji's history.

"The bloated government, with its 29 ministers and assistant ministers, already places a heavy burden on public finances. These recommendations will only exacerbate the situation, leading to the largest salary and benefits bill ever for Members of Parliament."

Dialogue Fiji is urging the Parliament to reject the recommendations and to prioritise the needs of the nation over the interests of a few.

This story was updated on 5 June 2024 to clarify (in the third paragraph) the base salary figures used to calculate the pay increases for the MPs.