Moved to more posh digs. Old Parliament photo by Trent M
Just finished my taxes. Wonder where they went. One place is the Mahinda picture show all over Sri Lanka. Always glad to fund public masturbation. Another is the direct salary of parliamentarians. They recently got a pay hike may actually be a good thing. I honestly don’t think it’s high enough. How a MP can survive on Rs 22,000 is beyond me, so it’s no surprise they become corrupt. You cannot educate children and live a middle class life in Colombo for that amount, let alone campaign. Furthermore, MPs are also expected to attend numerous weddings and funerals and events and pony up money, so that salary wouldn’t last a week. According to a new act, their salaries are going up to 55,000, which still isn’t enough. They won’t be happy with 30,000 more in their paycheck when they can get 100,000 in cash, but what to do.
Here’s the text from the newly open to the public Sunday Times,
The Presidentâ€™s pay has been increased to Rs. 61,250 with effect from January this year and this will further go up to Rs. 97,500 by January 2007. His present salary is Rs. 25,000. The Prime Ministerâ€™s salary will go up to Rs. 54,000 with effect from January this year and Rs. 71,500 from January 2007. His present salary is Rs. 34,000. The Speakerâ€™s salary will go up to Rs. 50,900 from 1.1.2006 to Rs. 68,500 from January next year. His present salary is Rs. 31,800.
Cabinet, Non-Cabinet Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition will get Rs. 47,402.50 from 1.1.2006 and this will go up to Rs. 65,000 next January. Their present salary is Rs. 29,815. The Deputy Speaker, the Deputy Ministers and Deputy Chairman of Committees will get Rs. 46,125 from 1.1.2006 and this will go up to Rs. 63,500 from January next year. Their present salary is Rs. 28,750. The salary paid to MPs will be Rs.38,192 from 1.1.2006 and this will increase to Rs. 54,285 from January 2007. In 2005 they will receive Rs. 22,000.
Fifty per cent of the arrears will be paid this year while the rest will be paid from January next year, according to the resolution. On Thursday, parliament also approved a salary increase for the Commissioner of Elections whose annual salary for 2007 will be Rs 724,080 compared with Rs 633,603 in 2006.
Corruption is a complex issue and I honestly doubt that this pay hike will have any measurable effect. However, it at least brings politicos a bit closer to their market value. Opposition has the obvious stick of ‘why do we pay these assholes’ to beat with, but I think that’s simply not realistic. Being a politician is actually a noble profession, sorely corrupted. Preaching for government austerity is, IMHO, a bit futile.
Getting wealthy is not dishonorable. Most people want it. Not that most people want Ferraris and gold teeth, but most people do want enough money to protect their wife, kids and family. Most of the money I see goes to rent, education and health, none of which I find especially glamorous. I think taking care of your family is a noble thing, and making money honestly as well. So, given that most people (public moralizing aside) do want to make money, it is curious that we expect our MPs to be some sort of austere priesthood. At the very best they are going to use their connections out of office to lobby or what. At worst (as the average is) they’re going to take money while in office. Anyone who campaigns against public waste shouldn’t look at MPs salaries. To be honest, that amount is paltry compared to the amount of damage they can do if corrupted.
Like many things, public piety often leads to private depravity. NGOs or governments may make a fine show of running on zero overhead, but then they either a) don’t function or b) become corrupt. Good organizations require good people, and good people are worth the money. If you pay no money then you won’t get good people and Garbage In Garbage Out. For an NGO the consequences aren’t that dire, but a government has the possibility to inflict a lot of damage. If you have a) idiots or b) corrupt idiots in government it’s a bad scene.
Personally I would double MP salaries, give some teeth to the Auditor General and the Bribery and Corruption commission and aggressively shrink the government to reduce the damage they could do. In that way perhaps MPs would accept the things they cannot change, have incentives to change what they can, and be punished for fucking up. As is the pay hike is one out of three, which makes for a pretty shitty tricycle. What to do.