Solomons PM Defends Tax Free Salaries For Members Of Parliament

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Sogavare says MPs are supporting many people on their pay

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation, April 30, 2015) – People voicing outrage at the tax-free salaries for Members of Parliament are living in an imaginary world.

Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare made the statement in Parliament last night in his sine die speech.

He also stood by the Finance Minister and the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission in their decision to award tax-free salaries for Members of Parliament, despite a public assurance he will announce measures to deal with the issue.

In a statement on Wednesday, Manasseh Sogavare said concerns raised by the public on the PEC’s decision to award tax-free salaries to MPs are valid.

He had further stated as a responsible Prime Minister, he is ready to propose measures that will adequately address these concerns.

He said he would announce these measures in his sine die motion speech, which was last night.

But the Prime Minister did not announce any measure as he had announced. He instead supported his Finance Minister and the PEC decision.

"Any review for those who will review it, like the TSI, FSII and others who want to review this please go to the house of a member of parliament and you will just see for yourself how many people these MPs are feeding every day Mr. Speaker. I would just like to endorse what’s said on the floor of this parliament. This is not an exaggeration Mr. Speaker for a member of parliament to feed up to 50 people every day Mr. Speaker."

He also described public outrage over the tax-free salaries for Members of Parliament as coming from people who live in an imaginary world.

"In the context of Solomon Islands politics to insist that the role of a politician is purely making legislation. It’s here, things like that are said on the floor of this parliament. We are dragging it a bit too far. People who are pushing that kind of thinking Mr. Speaker in Solomon Islands Mr. Speaker are living in an imaginary world Mr. Speaker because it is very easy for people who live a sheltered life to push such a thing; making issues out of it in the media."

Members of Parliament began enjoying tax-free salaries as of April first this year.

Parliament adjourned sine die last night.

Meanwhile, a former member of Parliament and Businessman has bluntly condemned the Member of Parliaments’ new Tax exemption privilege describing it as a form of discrimination between the government and ordinary citizens of Solomon Islands.

Responding to last week’s Tax-free awards to the MPs by the Parliamentary Entitlements Commission (PEC) Mr. Y. Sato says every Solomon Islands citizen – ordinary employee or Member of Parliament is duty bound to meet the tax obligation.

Mr. Sato points out that tax collection is important for the country’s services and no one, not even Members of Parliament should be granted special tax fee measures.

"Solomon Islanders will have to pay tax, regardless of them being students or employed people. They have the responsibility to pay tax to the country. Unless the laws are changed, they will not escape paying taxes. National leaders have to think about not paying taxes as it would be discriminatory for the citizens of the country to pay taxes alone."

Mr. Sato adds ordinary Solomon Islanders should also be granted tax exemption because they too are victims of the ‘Wantok System’, an excuse used by MPs to defend their privilege.

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