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Ali is an economist and political analyst, working at a private UK-based company. He worked previously at the World Health Organisation and has an MSc in Development Studies from SOAS. You can follow him on Twitter (@alialsaffar).

MPs’ expenses: Part III

It emerged today that our President gets paid a rather comfortable US$700,000 a year to do his job. I am not exactly sure whether this includes expenses or not, but regardless, the figure is absolutely shocking. What’s more, his two deputies get paid US$600,000 each, the Prime Minister US$360,000 and his own two deputies around half that.

These wages are obscene. They are made even more so when you consider that the average salary in Iraq is US$266 a month (The President is being paid 7 times as much in a day, as the average Iraqi is in a month). I am not entirely sure how these salaries can be justified, David Cameron is paid £142,500 a year, and his country actually has an economy, a functioning society….and electricity.

There was also talk recently that the Prime Minister would distribute plots of land to Iraq’s parliamentarians to reward them for their service during the last term. Maybe I am being naive, but I would have thought that their bloated wages were reward enough for their patriotic service. In fact, for most of them, an apple and a pat on the back would have done justice to their services.

I guess what it boils down to, is the same old Iraq. The same old story of patronage,  and of privilege and exclusion that has been a feature of every Iraqi regime since the 1920’s.  The oil money will flow, the pattern will continue and the Iraqi economy will be left with no productive sectors. Iraq will carry on its path of rentierism, where oil wealth is accumulated in the hands of the state, who then may chose to honour the citizens with gifts, like basic services, healthcare and education…or not.

Unless of course, God blesses us with someone that has the vision and strength to stop this vicious cycle that we haven’t managed to rectify in post-Saddam Iraq, despite the fact that our politicians should know better.

14 Comments on “MPs’ expenses: Part III”

  1. Ahmed Al-Saeed June 1, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    No wonder forming the government takes this long! I may add that all these top salaries of the Presidential Council, PM and his deputies are not regulated by any law from the previous Parliament. No official record has even been published by the Government or the Ministry of Finance. So quite lawfully and legally, our elected leaders can reward themselves as much as they like without any scrutiny! Absolutely outrageous.

    Thanks for sharing this with us Ali.

  2. Abbas June 1, 2010 at 8:07 pm #

    What’s disappointing is that these people are effectively robbing a country while ordinary civilians have to struggle to live. These so called leaders are people who came with false claims of being decent, fair and just yet they end up putting wealth into their pockets as opposed to the country they’re meant to be rebuilding. Post-Saddam Iraq was meant to bright and hopeful without fear of political parties who effectively murder in daylight, the reality is that we have a government who care nothing for their people.

  3. Hayder al-Khoei June 1, 2010 at 9:04 pm #

    ‘nless of course, God blesses us with someone that has the vision and strength to stop this vicious cycle that we haven’t managed to rectify in post-Saddam Iraq’

    Its good to dream and hope.

  4. Safwan Mudhafar June 1, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    if you check the orginal source, which is al-alam newspaper, it says there is no information regarding the perks and expenses budgets of the offices of the officials which are reported to be in the tens of million. Effectively, these officials receive their salaries plus the expenses that are not audited or scrutinised making it a bonus more than anything else.

  5. Ahmed Al-Saeed June 1, 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    And when they retire, they will take 80% of whatever that salary and allowances be! Ya Allah, no one told us democracy can be this profitable.

  6. Ali June 1, 2010 at 9:33 pm #

    The Al-Alam report says even the speaker earns $700k a year, as much as the President and twice as much as the PM.

  7. Abbas June 1, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

    Hayder – You’d be lucky! The country and citizens democratically voted month ago and nothing has happened.

  8. Yusr Jawad June 2, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    Thank you for this series of eye opening blogs Ali, these colossal figures speak of a flawed and damaged system that is in desperate need of modification and amendment.
    As for plans to hand out plots of land , despite being distributed to all ministers and ordinary parliament employees this has been rejected by many MPs and as a result such plans have been stalled, MPs will not be receiving any land.
    With regards to MP salaries, parliamentarians previously received 8.3 Million Iraqi dinars (Just over $7000 US). In early 2009 this amount was reduced to 7.5 million IQD ($6400). Later that year taxes were reduced and an allowance of 3 million IQD was introduced making the total monthly salary for MPs 11 million IQD equivalent of $9400 (This is after a 17% tax deduction). It’s important to note that these salaries are not supported by any additional expenses such as travel/transport, lodging, staff, offices, or any of the standard expenses or perks that are covered in other countries.
    In Germany, as MP salaries were compared to in a previous blog, MPs receive a monthly 7,339 euros, approximately $9000 USD however that excludes the $4600 in expenses for living costs and an additional $16,700 to run offices and pay staff, none of which are available to Iraqi MPs.
    In a country like France where parliamentarians receive relatively low salaries as compared to other EU countries the monthly salary is 5,180 Euros and an additional monthly €5,790 for homes + €8,950 for staff amounting to 19,920 Euros. ( $24, 381 USD) per month. Taking into consideration world standards, it would be fair to say that Iraqi MPs are reasonably paid. (That is assuming that they fulfil their parliamentarian duties!!)
    Iraqi ministers on the other hand receive the same salary as MP’s but all expenses are covered, including housing, travel/ transport, security, staff etc.
    The issue of salaries definitely needs to be reviewed in the next term of parliament, perhaps a fairer system would see that basic MP salaries are reduced and expenses should be introduced.

    I think MPs got a little less than a pat on the back as 215 of them were shown to the door and only 60 re-elected. Lets cross our fingers for next term.

    • Ahmed Al-Saeed June 2, 2010 at 4:50 am #

      “It’s important to note that these salaries are not supported by any additional expenses such as travel/transport, lodging, staff, offices, or any of the standard expenses or perks that are covered in other countries.”

      I would like to respond to the points you made above:
      -travel/transport: in Iraq, travel cost would be mainly fuel cost, and as an MP in Iraq you would have unrestricted access to fuel at the official price and not like ordinary Iraqis who buy from the black market during fuel crisis.
      -lodging: Most MPs from Baghdad are living in houses they don’t own and most of them are rent free if we to consider the green zone. If we are talking about MPs from other provinces coming to Baghdad, it is impossible that an MP would pay from his own pocket to stay in Al-Rashid or Al-Mansour hotel. Al-Rashid is paid for by the government and this goes to advisors and high ranking army officers, not only MPs.
      -staff: if by that you mean security, that might be a bit reasonable as the security allowance is included in (I assume) in the $9400, but again MPs can have their security registered on the payroll of the Ministry of Defense or Interior and no one would question that. If we are talking about administrative staff, everyone is hired by the government and not the MP.
      -offices: we know that most MPs in Iraq either work from their party offices (most of which are confiscated Ba’th party offices) or they already have their own big residence/office which is also rent/mortgage free.

      When we compare our MPs to Germany and other countries (say Jordan for example), the gap in basic services between an MP and the people is almost all to none. I agree on one justification for this bloated salary that MPs are risking their lives and their families, but again 80% pension for life after 4 years of patchy service is totally unfair.

  9. Shkara June 2, 2010 at 3:06 pm #

    Guys, may I suggest that alongside the very useful information (especially numbers) being posted that we also, where possible, include the sources used? It not only backs up the claims and makes the argument presented more robust but can also encourage other researchers/journalists to use this site as a reliable source of reference (e.g. FT has been using this site for their reporting, see their reference to Safwan’s blog http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4c9f665c-61c3-11df-aa80-00144feab49a.html)

  10. Yusr Jawad June 3, 2010 at 2:00 am #

    Ahmed you are absolutely right, I fully concur with your remarks on the issue of pensions. What applies to all citizens must apply to MPs.
    However, I must insist that there is absolutely no allowance for management or administrative staff; none are on the government payroll.
    Further, Iraqi MPs are not entitled to rent free homes.
    Lastly, as far as I know there is no allowance for cars (let’s not forget that some MPs travelling long distances from other provinces often need more than one car and none of the costs of maintenance, repair, depreciation are covered). MPs now buy petrol as any normal citizen does; petrol is now readily available and there is no longer a black market as there was three years ago.
    Shkara, point taken on necessity of stating sources, the information I have given has been verified by an Iraqi MP.

  11. Abbas June 3, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    Allowance for admin staff or not, the gap between Iraqi MPs and the average citizen is ridiculous. I would consider myself as an average citizen on a pretty average salary, but David Cameron only earns 3.5 times as much as me for being Prime Minister, not 290 times more. The pay gap is ridiculous and this broad daylight theft is not justifiable by any means.

  12. Salam June 3, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    Thanks for the writer of this blog for illuminating these issues. I wonder if you can give us an idea on the performance of the Finance Ministry in the last 4 years. It would be much appreciated.

  13. Ali Rashid June 4, 2010 at 8:40 am #

    Hi Salam,
    I think that the Ministry of Finance, like almost all other government institutions, has not performed particularly well in the last 4 years. It doesn’t seem to have a clear strategy that brings together other line ministries and government bodies, like the National Investment Commission, the central bank and the Ministry of Trade in a coherent drive to improve the Iraqi economy. I think it sometimes politicised key economic decisions, for example, issuing government bonds at below the market rate to Rasheed and Rafidain banks to finance electricity contracts, effectively loading government debt onto the balance-sheets of the banks. I also think the last budget the ministry released is outrageously optimistic, I don’t think Iraq will be able to spend anywhere near the money the ministry allocated for investment expenditure, and so the huge deficit they assume (predicated on the assumption that they could spend all the money) is unwise, and may well lead to loans being taken out that are unnecessary (Iraq already announced World Bank and IMF loans to finance this year’s ”deficit”).

    I hope that answers your question.

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