Fri, 03 Mar 2000

Legislators hail pay raise for senior officials

JAKARTA (JP): House of Representatives' legislators patted themselves on their backs on Thursday as they endorsed increased salaries for themselves and senior state officials.

The resounding approval was in stark contrast to the rumbles of discontent when it was initially discovered that hefty pay rises were planned for top government officials.

Formal approval came during a plenary session at the House to endorse the 2000 State Budget.

House Speaker Akbar Tandjung considered the salary hike a natural reward for the added responsibilities and duties of senior officials.

"The hike is natural. The current wage is low if we relate it to the duties of state officials," Akbar remarked.

He urged the public to view the increase in its proper context, without merely looking at its percentage.

As an example, he pointed out that a minister usually earns less than the director of the state-owned company that he or she oversees.

The government and the House have agreed to boost the basic salaries of the president and vice president by 78 percent and 120 percent respectively.

Abdurrahman's basic monthly salary will be raised to Rp 26.7 million (US$3,814) from Rp 15 million, while Megawati's will be increased to Rp 22 million from Rp 10 million.

The basic monthly salaries of legislators and senior officials will increase from around Rp 2.1 million to Rp 8 million.

People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais said he accepted the increases, but stressed that legislators must improve their performance.

"In the future, I hope the satirical phrase that legislators only arrive, sit down and keep silent (in the House) while receiving money will no longer be heard," Amien, who is also chairman of the National Mandate Party (PAN), said.

Amien however remarked that high salaries would not by themselves ensure the eradication of corruption.

"It's about morality. Although someone has been paid a billion rupiah, a corruptor will never be satisfied," he said.

The basic monthly salaries of the speakers of the House and the Assembly will increase from around Rp 2.5 million to Rp 14.6 million.

The government and the House have also agreed to raise salaries of government employees and police and military officers by about 30 percent.

Meanwhile in Yogyakarta, analyst Tony A. Prasetyantono of Gadjah Mada University said the most worrying event following confirmation of any pay increase was a jump in inflation.

"The government must ensure that supply of basic staples is sufficient," he said.

"An increase in civil servants' salaries always triggers inflation. That will be homework for the economists," he said.

Tony predicted that inflation would reach at least 4 percent, "but will be below 10 percent".

"The government's expectation that inflation would reach 4 percent was too optimistic ... The most important thing is that the government keep the figure below 10 percent," Tony said. (44/sur/jun)