by Linda Straker
- Separation of Parliament and Government work was previously not clearly demarcated
- Cabinet Ministers tasked with running a ministry, not running a constituency
- Financial allocations from state will enable them to serve constituents properly and effectively
Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell wants elected Members of Parliament to the Lower House to start receiving financial allocations from the state so that they will be able to serve their constituents properly and effectively.
“This system that we have where Members of Parliament…are given no resources whatsoever to address the concerns of their constituents is not going to lead to effective representation in Grenada,” he said, speaking on the adjournment at the 29 September sitting of the Lower House.
“We are going to become 50 years old in short order, so the idea that you run up and down your constituency ask people to vote for you — they vote for you, you become an MP, and then you have no resources to do anything — cannot be permitted to continue.” He called on members on both sides of the House to work together to change that system. “I am happy to invite my friends on the other side because now is the time that they have the opportunity to change it …I am happy to invite them to come along with us. We can perhaps start with the committee stages, to be honest with our people and say to them that as an MP, I do not have any state resources to help you.”
The Prime Minister is a first-time Member of Parliament. He explained that becoming elected to the Lower House is not a guarantee of serving in the Cabinet of Ministers, and those who become Cabinet Ministers are tasked with running a ministry, not running a constituency.
“We need to start by addressing parliamentarians who must be given some resources. They must be held accountable, and then you will know if you have real representation or not, because if my friend from St George’s South East and I are given the same budget, and he is working miracles in the southeast, and I am not working miracles in St David, then the people of St David will have a comparison to see what true representation is all about,” said the Prime Minister. He called for members, to be honest with their constituents and let them know that the system needs to change.
PM Mitchell said that the former administration, which had all 15 seats in the Lower House, merged the Government and Parliament, which resulted in confusion and frustration, because the separation of Parliament and Government work was not clearly demarcated. “I hope never again we don’t confuse the role of Parliament with the role of Government, because unlike some of my colleagues I am yet to have a parliamentary office to serve the people of St David, and part of that reason is that we confuse intentionally the role of Government with the role of Parliament,” he said.
“We need to respect the office of MPs and distinct it from central government so that we don’t ever get to a situation when there is a change in government and MP does not have an office to serve him. If we are going to strengthen democracy, parliament and parliamentary democracy and MP offices they need to be given the respect that they are due so that MPs can in fact properly serve the constituents who have elected them,” he said.
Members of Parliament whose salaries are EC$1,200 per month for the past 20 plus years moved from receiving no allocation following the 1984 General Elections for the administration of their offices to EC$1,500 each following the 1999 General Elections when the New National Party (NNP) initially won all constituency seats in the Lower House.
Following the 2013 General Elections, when the NNP again won all seats, Government allocated funds so that each Member of Parliament would rent an office space, hire a driver, an office attendant, a cleaner, a research officer, and an office manager. Projects in constituencies are usually initiatives undertaken with funding from the central Government.