A second minister has defended the Cabinet’s decision to increase travel perks for ministers and their spouses.
“While I am very sensitive to the fact that there are people who will say, ‘Listen, you know, you get to travel, you should be happy, and I’m trying to make ends meet. So, it’s hard to justify that,’” said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest, who was a guest on “On The Record” with Jerome Sawyer on Our TV.
“But at the same token, unfortunately we live in a global community. We do have to travel, we do have to network, we do have to meet people, because the reality is that if you are traveling to Europe or even in the U.S. and in the Caribbean, you will realize very quickly that the per diem that was historical, which has not been changed for years, was just not adequate. You couldn’t survive on that.”
Perspective, which is published in The Nassau Guardian every Monday, revealed last week the decision to increase travel benefits.
The new travel policy includes increased per diem for ministers; increased trips for ministers’ spouses and per diem; and membership to the American Airlines (AA) Admiral’s Club, which provides access to exclusive premium airport lounges around the world.
The ministerial per diem for domestic travel was increased from $80 to $100 per day and from $150 to $250 for international travel.
The $100 per day per diem for spouses is equivalent to the per diem paid to technical officers in the public service.
Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd – who co-chaired the Cabinet subcommittee that proposed the new policy – also defended the decision, claiming last week that the policy was “widely discussed and ventilated” in Cabinet before it was approved.
While on the show, Turnquest also said the benefits have not yet been implemented.
“While it is a topic and while the committee of Cabinet has agreed this, I think you will find in most ministries – and I can’t say for all because I haven’t looked at each and every one of them – you will find that in most, that those agreed increases have not been implemented,” he said.
“International travel is gruelling, particularly when you’re getting up four o’clock in the morning and all the rest of it. But, be that as it may, we have not applied or we do not have membership in the Admiral’s Club at this point.”
He added, “I haven’t gotten any increase in my travel per diem. I don’t have any Admiral’s Club membership.”