Herald Tribune: i parlamentari italiani sono i più pagati in Europa (in inglese)

8 03 2007

Italian lawmakers are the highest paid in Europe
by Elisabetta Povoledo

Wednesday, March 7, 2007
ROME: By one measure, Italian legislators are the most productive in Europe. Since World War II, they have conceived — and buried — 60 governments. Last week they almost did the same to the regime of Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who just escaped political entombment.


But even that record does not seem to justify their high salaries: They earn more than their European counterparts and have spread that largesse to just about anyone voted into office here.
Italian members of Parliament make about €16,000, or $21,000, a month, which includes a per diem allotment and funds for staff members, even if they do not have any. In France, members of the National Assembly receive a bit less than €7,000 a month, including a housing allowance. In Sweden, members of the Riksdag make do with just €5,000.
(The contrast is more marked at the European Parliament in Brussels, where the monthly compensation for Italian politicians is the highest: €11,109. Germans make €7,009 and Spain’s lawmakers earn €2,914. Lithuania’s representatives make the least, their 4,085 litas convert into a mere €1,183, according to statistics provided by the Parliament’s media office).
“It isn’t enough that Italian members of Parliament make a lot of money, there’s also been the multiplication of elected officials,” Cesare Salvi, a senator with the Democrats of the Left, said of the government’s numerous representatives.
Nearly 150,000 people in Italy are paid to work on behalf of the public good. There are 78 representatives of the European Parliament, 945 members of Parliament (315 senators and 630 members of the lower house), and representatives of regional, provincial, local and municipal administrations.
But the number balloons to nearly 430,000 when paid consultants and political appointees are factored in, Salvi wrote in 2005 in “The Cost of Democracy,” which he wrote with another left-leaning senator, Massimo Villone. By his estimate, the cost of paying elected officials and of financing political parties is at least €1.85 billion a year.
Salvi and Villone have drafted several bills to tame Italy’s political machine. “I’d have to say I’m pretty pessimistic,” Salvi said. He pointed out that a measure he proposed in December’s budget debate to cut salaries had been rejected.
Compared with private sector compensation, paychecks for elected representatives can be seen as conspicuous. In 2003, for example, average annual gross earnings in Italy were less than €22,000, according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office.
They’re overpaid and don’t have a lot to show for what they earn,” Daniela Corbisiero, who runs a bar here, said of his country’s lawmakers.
“In the end we’re paying for everything,” she griped, referring to bodyguards and chauffeured sedans. “Politicians are supposed to care for their country, but it seems to me it’s more about personal interest”
or Gustavo Piga, a professor of economics at Tor Vergata University, the real concern is the message that young people get from their lawmakers about the protected public sector. “It’s as though they’re saying go into politics, it’s the best paid job for the lowest effort,” he said.
Tapping into the public malaise in a speech before the confidence vote in the Senate on Feb. 28, which he won, Prodi acknowledged that reducing the costs of government was fundamental to building good will with voters. “This is one of the fundamental points of our credibility,” he said. “We can’t ask sacrifices of our citizens, or reduce public spending, if we don’t begin to make decisions that affect us.”
is cabinet, he said, had already cut compensation to ministers, including himself, by 30 percent. But, he added, “We haven’t done enough yet.”
But some experts say cutting government salaries is a drop in an ocean of more serious troubles. “For me it’s irrelevant and demagogical,” said Piga, the economics professor. He conceded that the ethical message such cuts put across was positive, “but starting with the small stuff won’t solve Italy’s problems.”
(Ivan Ekman contributed reporting from Stockholm and Thomas Crampton contributed from Paris)

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