AFTER assessing pay demands made by teachers and physicians, the government of Iveta Radičová, pressed by the gloomy prospect of an economic slowdown and a swelling deficit, is now looking at its own pay and that of other public officials. While the wages of teachers and physicians are likely to go up in order to forestall further tension in the health or education sectors, the cabinet will propose freezing the salaries of constitutional officials including MPs and ministers.
Prime Minister Iveta Radičová has promised that her cabinet will submit a pay-freeze proposal to parliament, and thus give MPs the final say on whether they get a salary rise, the SITA newswire reported.
The salaries of MPs are calculated from the average income in the national economy. However, under the previous government of Robert Fico salaries were frozen and until 2010 salaries were based on wage levels from 2007. The current government, based on a proposal tabled by Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) boss Richard Sulík, agreed to unfreeze salaries earlier this year and linked future changes to the condition of the public finances.
Under this scheme, MPs’ salaries rise in line with average national earnings, but can also be cut based on the size of the public finance deficit. As this year’s deficit is expected to be between 3 and 5 percent, MPs are due to receive 5 percent less than they would have got under normal circumstances.
However, because the deficit in 2010 was higher (and MPs’ salaries were therefore reduced by 15 percent as a result), their pay is actually due to increase steeply. According to a Finance Ministry calculation quoted by SITA, deputies’ salaries would go up by €652 to €4,228 a month.
“In the current situation when funds must be saved wherever it is possible, such an increase is not defensible,” Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš said on November 9, as quoted by the Sme daily.
Robert Fico’s opposition party Smer has been critical of Sulík’s proposal from its very inception. The party submitted a proposal to freeze MPs’ salaries earlier this year but it did not get through parliament.
“The ruling coalition passed a senseless law to raise the salaries of constitutional officials and now they are hypocritically washing their hands of it,” said Smer spokesperson Erik Tomáš in a statement on November 9.
SaS said that, considering the forecast economic slowdown, it is ready to support the idea of freezing the salaries of public officials, adding that the salaries of deputies and other constitutional officials should not increase as long as the economic situation remains unsettled and the real earnings of the population do not increase.
Nevertheless, Sulík also said that that the system adopted by the ruling parties, which makes salaries dependent on the economic results of the state, is a fair one, Sme reported.
Environment Minister Zsolt Simon of Most-Híd, Transport Minister Ján Figeľ of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Economy Minister Juraj Miškov of SaS all said they favour the idea of a freeze and added that they have no problem with the fact that the measure was originally proposed by the opposition, SITA reported.
“This is not about who comes up with the solution but about the majority, and I hope it will be an overwhelming majority that supports such a proposal,” Figeľ said, as quoted by SITA.
Nevertheless, there is no consensus about what model should be applied in future and some MPs would prefer to discard the existing arrangement.
The KDH, for example, noted that the model proposed by SaS had already provoked disagreement within the ruling coalition last year.
“We underlined the risks of the model that we eventually adopted. We will discuss it and we will definitely not demand any great exclusivity compared to other Slovak citizens,” said KDH caucus leader Pavol Hrušovský in response to the prospect of deputies’ salaries increasing by hundreds of euros.
Smer is insisting that salaries should be frozen and that the SaS model should be discarded.
According to Sme, the Office of the Slovak Parliament originally said that MPs’ salaries would increase by €362, by considerably less than the Finance Ministry's more recent estimate. The parliamentary office said it is now processing the latest data.
14. Nov 2011 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová