Sat, 15 Jan 2000

Govt argues ministers' pay hike good for all

JAKARTA (JP): The government has defended its plan to raise the salaries of state officials, saying a more appropriate pay level would allow officials to concentrate on their job without seeking additional sources of income.

President Abdurrahman Wahid was quoted by State Minister of Cooperatives, Small and Medium Enterprises Zarkasih Nur as saying that he and other Cabinet ministers were not interested in enriching themselves through proposing the salary hike.

Zarkasih contended that it was merely part of the President's strategy to create an honest and clean government.

"The President said he wants to increase the ministers' salaries because he did not want them to think of anything other than their job," the minister said after the meeting at Merdeka Palace.

Legislators reacted harshly on Thursday when asked to comment on leaked reports that top state officials would get hefty pay rises.

They said they could understand the planned 20 percent pay increase for civil servants but rebuked the consideration of a wage hike for top officials.

The President is expected to submit the draft budget for the 2000 fiscal year to the House of Representatives (DPR) on Thursday. The proposed salary hikes are included in the draft budget.

According to the proposal, the President's gross monthly pay will increase from Rp 33 million (US$4,580) to Rp 107.4 million, while Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri would also make more money with Rp 89.5 million.

The speakers of the House of Representatives (DPR) and People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) and the chief of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) will increase their pay almost nine-fold to Rp 45.5 million, while legislators would make about Rp 27.6 million per month.

Cabinet members, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and military chiefs will earn Rp 44.75 million per month compared to their current Rp 5.6 million.

Minister of Finance Bambang Sudibyo shot back at critics, saying the current pay of top state officials was in no way compatible with executives in the private sector.

He said the proposed increase for civil servants would bring them in line with private sector salaries.

In the past the government acknowledged that civil servants' wages were lower than the mandatory minimum wage for the private sector.

Bambang complained that his salary was much lower than that of the Bank Indonesia governor and other officials who are under his supervision, including the head of the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA).

"The minister of finance's salary may be only one-seventh or one-eighth of theirs," Bambang said after attending a plenary Cabinet meeting.

"My salary should be higher than them because my appointment was based on a presidential decree," the minister remarked.

The meeting, which was chaired by the President, also discussed the pay rise plan as a part of the budget draft. (prb)