Assembly approves suspension of 13 month pay, end of year gratuity for Constitutional appointees |03 December 2020
Members of the Assembly voted 18 for with nine abstentions to approve for the suspension of the 13th month pay and end of the year gratuity for the year 2020 for certain Constitutional appointees namely the president, vice-president, ministers and National Assembly members.
The Minister for Finance, Economic Planning and Trade, Naadir Hassan, presented the Suspension of Thirteenth Month Pay and End of the Year Gratuity Bill, 2020 for the Assembly’s consideration and approval.
When presenting the Bill Minister Hassan reminded Assembly members that it was in his address to the House last month that President Wavel Ramkalawan announced that the country cannot afford to pay a 13 month salary because we are facing a serious economic downturn and the situation does not look like it will improve anytime soon.
He explained that the country’s expenses in 2020 have been significant and the budget not sustainable.
Minister Hassan said the government is conducting an exercise to reduce its expenses with the aim of making its budget more sustainable.
This year would have been the third that employees are benefitting from the 13 month pay but unfortunately this would not be possible this year as the revenue entering State coffers continue to reduce.
In line with the current economic and financial situation, the government has had to take the difficult decision to suspend the 13 month pay for 2020 and end of year gratuity for some Constitutional appointees namely the president, vice-president, ministers and National Assembly members.
Minister Hassan said as a result the government would make a saving of about R541 million which would cover the salaries of employees in the public, parastatal and private sectors.
In line with that President Ramkalawan has voluntarily agreed to forgo his end of year gratuity and he has called on other Constitutional appointees to do the same in solidarity with other employees.
“In order for the government to be able to continue sustaining our brothers and sisters more in need, the scarce revenue that the country is collecting should be used wisely and for expenses that are really necessary. Our expenses should be as per our means,” Minister Hassan stressed.
He went on to note that the government recognises the extra hard work of people in essential services and frontline employees but at the same time we all need to make sacrifices during this difficult time.
Minister Hassan has reassured everyone that the time will come when our economic situation will improve and we will all be able to rejoice once again but for the time being the government is imploring each and every one of us to understand our current difficult economic situation and the decision that has been taken for the benefit of the country.
A daylong of debate which ended late afternoon followed the presentation of the Bill.
While members of the opposition argued that they understand the rationale behind the decision, they said it is not clear that the government has conducted a thorough assessment of the situation to see if really there is no way it could assist those who will face great financial difficulty.
Members of the majority party argued that it is through intense consultation with different actors in the financial sector that has allowed the government to better understand the real economic situation of the country and come up with the decision.
Some members said while the decision is a painful and unpopular one, as politicians they should all explain to their constituents why it has been taken.
“It will be best to continue to have a salary next year instead of a 13 month pay to spend for the festivities at the end of the year. The decision is not necessarily popular but it is moral, and appropriate at this difficult timer,” majority member Gervais Henrie stated.
He has called on Constitutional appointees to voluntarily forgo their end of year gratuity as well as businesses that are not related to tourism and which have performed very well during this difficult time to give a bonus to their employees.
In the committee stage with the participation of the PS for employment Jules Baker, members carried out various amendment to the Employment Act to allow for the suspension.