8 June 2006 Edition

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International: Taoiseach amongst highest paid European leaders

Leaders' salaries revealed

The Irish government has been calling on the public to care for elderly relatives at home in order to free hospital beds in our underfunded and overcrowded health system while on the pages of French paper L'Express it is revealed that the Irish Taoiseach and President are two of the most highly paid government officials in Europe.

Mary McAleese is the best paid European President, with €22, 834 per month, followed by Austrian Heinz Fischer, with a mere €20,775 and Italy's Giorgio Napolitano, with €18,200. At the end of the table is Poland's Lech Kaczynski with €4,393 and Estonia's Arnold Ruüel, with €4,198. When it comes down to Prime Ministers, Angela Merkel, with her monthly wages of €21,262, tops the table of the best paid head of government. Second comes Bertie Ahern, with a monthly wage of €20,558, followed by Romano Prodi, with a €18,533.

L'Express also reveals how difficult it found it to obtain the details of the monthly income for European Union heads of state. It seems that the transparency of Nordic countries is still miles ahead of Mediterranean states. In the former, the information is available on the internet while in the later, it must be approved by parliaments and is generally accessible to the public on demand. The French newspaper points out how their Rome correspondent had to go from one government department to another to find out the monthly salaries of the Italian President and Prime Minister.

Another matter altogether is how the figures are agreed. In the Czech Republic and in Slovakia, the salaries of the Prime Minister and the President are calculated according the average industrial wage, which is then multiplied by an agreed coefficient. In Lithuania, the Prime Minister is paid 12 times the average monthly wage. In Belgium, the government proposes a wage and the parliament decides on it. In Germany, the Chancellor receives 1.66% the wages of the best paid civil servant.

However, the rules in various states have also generated political controversy, as in the case of the Czech republic, when in 2003, it took nine months of negotiations to get communists and the political right to approve an amount for Vaclav Havel's pension. In the Netherlands, the parliament questioned the government salaries which were six times those of senior civil servants.

The issue however should be viewed in a wider context of the various benefits that may or may be available to prime ministers or heads of state. In some cases, prime ministers do not have an official residency- the 26 Counties and Luxemburg, being two examples.

Outside the European Union the differences seem based on the countries' perceived position in the world. For example, George Bush has doubled his wages since 2001. Now, he gets about €22,784 every month. Japanese Prime Minister, Junchiru Koizumi earns €24,000 per month.

However, if it was a question of population and responsibility, Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh deserves more than his monthly €650 for his leadership of a country with more than 1,000 million people. However, analysing the situation of countries such as India, the question of how such high wages can be afforded must be asked.

Some national leaders are trying to set an example of how to do things. This is the case with Evo Morales, the new Bolivian President. As soon as he reached power Morales announced a reduction of 57% on his predecessor wages. Now, he gets monthly about €667, while Brazilian President, Lula, gets paid €2,900 per month, meaning that in Brazil, at least 20,000 civil servants can consider themselves better paid than their President.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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