On November 13, 2019, President David Granger announced a nine percent increase in wages and salaries for Public Servants earning less than $100,000 per month. This includes those earning a minimum wage of $64,220, who will now earn $70,000 per month. The new salary structure is unparalleled and represents a 77 per cent increase in the minimum wage since 2015; which at that time was $39,540.
The President, in an address to the nation, said the Government is committed to creating a proficient, professional, highly motivated and well-paid Public Service, which is essential for good governance.
“Personal allowances have increased significantly, the income-tax rate has been reduced and the tax on employees’ contribution to NIS was removed, over the last four years. Special attention was given, also, to certain categories of workers such as teachers, sweeper-cleaners and engineers, among others,” President Granger said.
These increases, the President said, have been consistent since 2015, and they have had a positive impact on the performance of public servants themselves, on their households and on the national economy.
For two members of the healthcare profession, the wages and salaries increase will go a long way.
Ms. Nikesha Primo, student of the Georgetown School of Nursing, in a recent interview told the Public Information and Press Service (PIPS) that as a young adult and a prospective public servant, she feels comfortable going into the nursing profession knowing that she can utilise her salary to meet her needs.
“I think it’s a good initiative. We as student nurses, will benefit from it a lot when we get into the profession, because we would have more resources to further our studies and it’s going to help us to provide for our families,” Ms. Primo said.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Carol Persaud-Douglas, Senior Nurse Coordinator, Ministry of Public Health, believes that initiatives such as these can help to deter professionals from leaving Guyana in search of better paying salaries.
She explained that after working overseas for ten years, she returned to Guyana in 2018 because she believed that things had gotten better. Her view is that the continuous revision of the salary structures can have a positive impact on reducing human capital flight.
“I think it is very good because it would help to prevent … brain drain. Years ago, Guyana went into a brain drain because of low salaries, but now that the salary is being increased you will find that less persons would want to migrate to other countries… I think it’s a good way of attracting those qualified people back within the Government system,” she emphasized.
Several members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) have also given the consistent salary increases positive reviews, while maintaining that extra money improves one’s standard of living, ensures money is available for emergencies and enlarges one’s saving capability.
In an invited comment, Sergeant Kessa Messiah expressly said the increase in salary will allow her to save more. “What I do is I utilise the Credit Union to save, so if I am given five per cent or nine per cent, automatically my savings go up. I do not change the way I live; I accommodate the increase by adding it to my savings,” she said.
According to Warrant Officer Class 2, Mirza Shah, a salary increase means that he has more cash in hand. He said he has realised that one of the most common welfare issues that soldiers are faced with are financial emergencies. Salary increases, he said, have helped in that regard. “It reduces the amount of financial challenges that they may have in and out of the GDF,” Officer Shah posited.
Salary increase is better than bonus
Prior to 2015, members of the Disciplined Services were the frequent beneficiaries of a yearend bonus equivalent to one month’s salary. However, Minister of Finance, Mr. Winston Jordan recently expressed the belief that this was an unfair practice given that there are many other categories of Public Servants. He emphasized that the Government prioritises continuous salary increases given the long-term benefits they can yield.
“When I am calculating your vacation allowance, I don’t include bonus, it’s your salary, one month’s salary. When I’m calculating your gratuity, it doesn’t take in bonus, it’s your salary and when I’m calculating your pension, it’s not bonus, it’s your salary … I can easily pay you a bonus my friend because it’s the least of my headaches because (a) it’s one-off, but when I pay you a nine per cent, I have to ensure that I can sustain it…If you think you have monies and maybe we will get monies five years down the road when the oil really starts flowing and so on and we think that a bonus is something that can be in addition to of, course, your well-earned increases, then we will do so for all employees, not some employees,” Minister Jordan said.
GDF Warrant Officer Class 1, Tyronne Goodridge, shared similar sentiments to those of the Minister. “From a welfare perspective, a bonus is one-off and after that you have nothing more to benefit from it,” he said, adding that a salary increase significantly boosts the morale of the Force.
“When you have a soldier who is satisfied financially, it simply means that you have a soldier and an army that will be more effective and more efficient and you will have a soldier who will perform his duty regardless of sun or rain,” Warrant Officer Goodridge said.
Minister Jordan said the 77 per cent increase in minimum wage since Government took office is reflective of the progress made towards the creation of a liveable wage.
“I will arrive [at] that liveable wage faster. As you can see, we have climbed 77 per cent; we’re more than half way up the ladder,” he said.
The Minister emphasized that while the Government can provide bonuses, its intention is to create a better salary structure for Public Servants so that their standard of living can be improved.
The Government, he said, is looking at a structured approach to salaries and that in addition to across-the-board-increases, once base salaries get within a comfortable range, the Government would endeavour to implement an appraisal-based structure where Public Servants will get incremental salary increases.
“We have to go back to the increment system and this will help to reduce the bunching that has taken place with across-the-board increases. You have people who come in [the job] today and they are working for your salary even though you’ve been working there for five years,” Minister Jordan said.
Not only have salaries increased, but also several categories of allowances. President Granger announced that “Station Allowances will be increased by over 260 per cent from $2,800 to $10,000; Hinterland allowances will be increased by between 100 per cent and 600 per cent from between $4000 and $12,000 to $24,000; Risk allowance will be increased by nine hundred per cent from $500 to $5000; Uniform allowances for health sector workers will be increased from $13,000 and $22,135 to $15,000 and $30,000; and On-call allowance for doctors will be increased”.
The Minister of Finance said that with the next round of increases, the Government will be looking at allowance packages for the rest of the Public Service. He informed that the allowances for the Disciplined Services will be considered separately.
New 2019 Public Servants will benefit too
Minister of Public Service, Mrs. Tabitha Sarabo-Halley, said she believes that Public Servants are generally elated about the increase in their salary structure over the last four years and are eagerly awaiting their retroactive pay. She also reassured persons who were employed this year that they too will benefit, equally, from retroactive salaries.
This means that the Public Servants hired during 2019 will be paid a retroactive increase from the date of their assumption of duty, while persons who were promoted will be paid the increase in accordance with their previous salaries from January 1, 2019 to the date of their promotion. Thereafter, the increase will be calculated using their new salary amount.
Minister Sarabo-Halley said she has been working to eliminate unnecessary hurdles within the Public Service system. One of those hurdles is the normative three-month waiting period for new staff to access their salaries. She said that a circular will soon be dispatched from her office to ensure that all Public Servants are paid on time.
“No matter which public agency you’re in, the personnel should recognise that there is nothing positive about having staff wait three, four, five months before they get paid. That does not help to get the best out of them, if you want productivity, then give them what they duly deserve,” she said.
President Granger regards the Public Service as a very important state mechanism for national development and prioritises the continuous reform of the sector to efficiently cater to the needs of Guyana. A major achievement of his Government since 2015 is the unparalleled increases of wages and salaries that it has given to Public Servants.