TONGA LAWMAKERS TO ENJOY SUBSTANTIAL ‘PERKS’

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Car and driver, subsidized housing, retirement gratuities

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Dec. 4, 2008) – More details have been made available about the planned new salary structure for Cabinet Ministers in Tonga.

The plan, which includes substantial new benefits, has attracted criticism for being inappropriate given the country’s economic state.

The Prime Minister is to get about 40,000 US dollars a year, with Cabinet Ministers getting slightly less.

The Government denies that it is an increase but rather a merging of the two salaries they currently get - a parliamentary and a Cabinet salary. But the leading pro-democracy member of parliament, Akilisi Pohiva, says the increase is up to 125 percent and the money would be better applied to key social areas such as health and education.

In 2006 MPs accepted a 60 percent increase to put them on par with the controversial increases paid to public servants that year. But the Matangi Tonga website quotes the Prime Minister Dr Feleti Sevele as saying the increases for Cabinet Ministers were held back at that stage, with some issues needing to be worked out. The new structure includes a free car with a driver on 24 hour call, subsidised housing, insurance and phone and substantial superannuation benefits that pay gratuities of up to half the money earned while in Cabinet.

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