Solomon Islands court approves MPs' tax-free salaries

An external view of the Solomon Islands parliament building Image copyright iStock/viavado
Image caption Tax-free zone: Members of parliament won't be troubled by income tax in future

MPs in the Solomon Islands won't have to pay tax on their parliamentary salaries, after a court ruling ended a long-running dispute on the issue.

There was a public outcry in the Pacific island nation in May 2015, when a parliamentary commission voted to exempt MPs' earnings from tax. A year later, the High Court scrapped that decision, ruling it unconstitutional because the commission failed to consult the relevant authorities first.

But now the Court of Appeal - the Solomon Islands highest court - has said that MPs can benefit from tax-free salaries after all. It ruled that while the policy may be unpopular with the public, it's still legal, Radio New Zealand International reports.

The former British protectorate is one of the Pacific's poorest countries, and receives millions of dollars in aid from Australia each year.

Non-profit group Transparency Solomon Islands criticised the court's decision, saying it "has created an unstoppable monster". "The decision is not necessarily morally ethically, responsibly correct or good for the well-being of our people and the development of our country," a post on its Facebook page reads.

Back in 2015, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare initially said he understood people's concerns about parliamentarians not paying tax, after locals held protests. But shortly afterwards he said he supported the decision because MPs face significant financial pressures, including feeding constituents.

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