Parliament on Tuesday amended the Governor General Emoluments and Pension Act to increase the head of state’s housing allowance from EC$2,000 to EC$4,000 a month.
The State is responsible for providing housing for the Governor General.
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Ralph Gonsalves, presented the bill to Parliament.
“This bill is very simple. The Governor General was receiving a housing allowance of $2,000 a month. Now, everyone would tell you that this is an absurdly small sum. The State has a responsibility, an obligation, to provide housing for His Excellency,” Gonsalves said.
He, however, noted that there is no housing specifically provided for the Governor General.
“As everyone knows, there is a plan afoot to reconstruct the residence of the Governor General, to reconstruct Government House. It is now being used as an office and occasionally, for social functions,” Gonsalves said.
“And the Governor General has been using his own home. If fully furnished, if we had to rent that home, it would be way in excess of $4,000 a month,” he further told government Members of Parliament and media audiences, as the opposition stayed away from Parliament as part of their continued protest of the Dec.9 elections results.
He later said that the opposition would have supported the bill as it was a straightforward, non-contentious matter.
Gonsalves further said: “I should point out, the Governor General did not ask that this be increased, but, the truth, Mr. Speaker, I was not aware that the sum put aside for the housing — I knew of it but somehow it slipped my consciousness and when I directed my mind to it, it’s just was not fair, even though he was not complaining, for him to be paid a housing allowance of $2,000 a month.”
Gonsalves noted that the government is responsible for housing judges.
“I can assure you that in a private residence, you don’t get a house of that sum for a judge to live in. And, in fact, when I say this, ambassadors may well be saying, ambassadors represented here, ‘Wow! They’re only giving the Governor General $2,000 a month.’ They must be laughing at that.
“The $4,000, they must be saying, ‘Prime Minister, surely you can do better than that for the Governor General.’ I am sure they must be saying that privately at their parties,” Gonsalves said.
He, however said the present economic circumstances are “straitened”
“… as we know, the economic crisis and all that has happened from 2008 and continuing and we all have to try to cut our cloth to suit our size and that is why, in balancing everything, this is where we are Mr. Speaker, and, the importance of having the governor General salary — emoluments and pension regulated precisely by statute, it is a matter of importance so that the general public would know what are the conditions under which he is serving,” Gonsalves further said.