The Fifth Column

25th January 1998

Better late than never

"Thaaththa," Bindu Udagedara asked, "what is this fuss about a pay increase?"

"The government," said Percy, Bindu's father, "is giving us a salary increase in July...."

"Then why is everybody blaming the government for that?"

"Because," Percy said, "the increase was first said to be effective from this month, January...."

"Then what happened?"

"Then, at the last Budget our good old Professor said that there was no money in the Treasury and that he couldn't afford to give us a salary increase from January?"

"And what did he do?" "He said, as usual, please forgive me, but I'll give you the increase from July...."

"But that's fair enough, Thaaththa. You can't blame him for that...."

"Why do you say that?"

"Why, Thaaththa, the slogan of this government is 'better late than never'...."

"But this time, some people think it is better never than late?" "Why is that?" Bindu was surprised.

"Because," Percy explained, "they have significantly raised their own salaries...."

"What do you mean?"

"The salaries of Members of Parliament, Deputy Ministers, Ministers and even the President have been raised...."

"There is nothing wrong with raising the President's salary," Bindu argued, "she has to even do the work of Ministers ...."

"But, Bindu, can't you see what this all means?"

"What?" "If the MPs, Ministers and the President said they didn't want their salary increase, we could have had our salary increase much earlier rather than having to wait till July...."

"So, GL is robbing us to pay his colleagues," Bindu said.

"And his boss...."

"But Thaaththa," Bindu thought, "there might be a reason for delaying this pay hike...."

"Like what?"

"Remember what Kingsley said? He said we Sri Lankans eat too much...."

"He must have said that in Parliament, looking at his colleagues...."

"So he must be worried that we will all fall ill...."

"In that case, they should have done what Blair did in Britain...."

"What was that?" "They voted for a salary increase but none of the Ministers accepted it...."

"Then," said Bindu, "maybe that is why they are inviting Charles...."

"Why do you say that?"

"They must be wanting to learn from him how they did that in Britain...."

"With Charles, there are other advantages as well, Bindu," Percy said.

"What's that?" "With Diana no longer beside him, you can be sure that the spotlight will be only on one lady...." Percy said.

Bindu didn't disagree.

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