Mon, 10 Apr 2000

Minister opposes perk increase

YOGYAKARTA (JP): Minister of National Education Yahya Muhaimin joined on Saturday the public's opposition to the government's plan to raise structural allowances of high-ranking officials.

Despite being part of the government, Yahya labeled the increase in the structural allowances as excessive and said it would not necessarily address problems in national education.

"The government should postpone the plan. The most urgent thing is to improve the lives of teachers," Yahya told reporters here on Saturday after opening the Muhammadiyah Higher Education National Workshop.

Yahya said instead of spending so much on high-ranking officials, the government should first pay attention to teachers, the vanguard of national education.

The plan to raise the structural allowances of government officials has sparked nationwide protests from the lower-grade civil servants on grounds that it could create more disparity between officials and ordinary state employees.

Gadjah Mada University rector Ichlasul Amal was among those who rallied against the proposal. Several other state universities across the country followed suit, with the latest reported in the West Sumatra capital of Padang on Wednesday.

Teachers across the country have also threatened to go on strike in mid-April to protest the controversial plan.

The Indonesian Teachers Union (PGRI) has even called its members to boycott the national end-of-term examination in May if the government opts to stick to the plan.

Yahya expressed his concern about the House of Representatives failure to accept his proposal that would give a 300 percent hike to teachers salaries.

He said teachers deserve better payment due to their huge responsibilities. "The plan of a structural allowances hike should be followed by a teachers salary hike," he added.

By raising the salaries of our teachers, we would inevitably recruit better qualified people to teach in the nation's schools. (44/dja)