Listen here:

I’m never one to begrudge anyone a salary increase. People deserve to be paid well. People who perform and deliver and people who are talented deserve to be paid very well.

That’s a basic principle in my mind.

So the Finance Minister’s announcement that members of the political directorate, who for decades have been some of the lowest paid politicians in the Commonwealth Caribbean, are to receive substantial salary increases does not unduly trouble me.

We cannot continue to complain about the perceived levels of corruption in politics, and still continue to pay our politicians the pittance we have been for so long.

That shouldn’t be controversial to say. It is a reality. Kickbacks and under the table deals become so much more lucrative when our politicians are a pay cheque away from a difficult financial situation. Such a situation is untenable.

It nuh mek no sense. Singapore, the country we look to with admiration recognises it makes no sense and so they pay their politicians well. Their leaders are some of the best paid in the world.

Even the Prime Minister of Barbados, a country considerably smaller than our own, was earning more than our Prime Minister prior to yesterday’s announced increases.

Dem know ova deh seh yuh cya rub butter a puss mouth.

So to all 63 MPs and all the Cabinet Ministers, I say congratulations. Enjoy your new salary scales.

But beyond those congratulations and commiserations is a very real question on the minds of many Jamaicans. What changes now?

What more can we expect from our elected leaders now that we have made sure they are appropriately taken care of?

That is to say, how will we, the people, ensure that the MPs who are now to be paid $14 million, the Cabinet Ministers who are now to be paid $20 million and the Prime Minister who will now command nearly $29 million are truly accountable for the conduct of the offices we entrust to them?

Because while no one should begrudge our politicians these increases, it cannot be that taxpayers are called upon to pay politicians, civil servants and yes, even judges, significantly more in salaries, but are no better served by those who hold these important offices.

We know all too well the MPs who serve only the communities stacked with their voters, or the ones who only serve their people. And even worse, the ones who do little more than bang desks and warm bench. We know them.

Those legislators must come to recognise that simply won’t do anymore.

As a country we have been called upon to pay billions of dollars more in salaries, and so we must now address our minds to what accountability looks like in our politics. And to those who are clamouring for job descriptions, I say no, be serious.

Accountability means very little if it does not have practical application. The beast that is Jamaican politics will not conform to paper based assurances without the teeth of enforcement.

Put simply, politicians will not willingly concede power merely because a document issued by the Prime Minister says so. The tribalism and our propensity for wagon circling in this country runs far too deep to allow that.

So while the Prime Minister should indeed be held to account for his still unkept promise of job descriptions for his Ministers, and he should explain to Jamaicans why he reneged on that crucial promise, we cannot rest our hopes on that. It’s a nice to have, a useful tool in the framework, but we must demand more.

We must demand a system which amplifies our own ability to enforce accountability in our politics.

What we need in Jamaica now is the right to recall non performing Members of Parliament. Put in place a system which triggers a threshold that will require the bench warmers in the Parliament to face the people and give account of themselves.

We can no longer wait five years to pass judgement on poor performance. That system simply will no longer work when a legislator now commands a significantly higher salary.

Now is an opportune time to put this matter on the public agenda as we embark on the review and reform of our Constitution.There are various models of recall that we can look to for guidance. It’s time to lift the standard in the politics, across the board.

It’s my hope that civil society leaders will take up this cause and apply themselves to advocating for the recall to become a part of our political system going forward.

Accountability in the politics simply must become the order of the day.

Now I understand very well that many Jamaicans will greet these increases with dismay. The perception that politicians deserve the bare minimum runs deep in this country. Our elected leaders bear a significant portion of the blame for that perception, occasioned by too many instances of a failure to deliver for the Jamaican people.

This salary increase presents an opportunity for a reset of sorts, our leaders must not squander it. I hope the government is prepared to get ahead of the anger and make the case properly to the Jamaican people, with commitments for better service delivery.

Finally, I want to say a word about Nigel Clarke.

It’s no secret, because I’ve said it publicly that I believe he’s one of our finest Finance Ministers. I still very much believe that.

I don’t know if Dr. Clarke is in a hurry to be somewhere, but he seems so intent on taking on some of this country’s biggest and most complex issues and setting them right.

It takes remarkable political courage to do some of these things, but there’s no doubt in my mind, they have to be done. There will never be an ideal time, the right time is always now. I respect Nigel Clarke for it.

But he has one more Herculean task. He must convince his colleagues that they now have to deliver.

They have to deliver and ensure that when all is said and done and the dust settles on the billions spent on salaries for civil servants, politicians and judges, the Jamaican people can comfortably say they got value for money.