IN THE END, deputies could not take the pressure from those fighting to keep their privilege to use cars provided by the state and left the government to deal with the issue. MPs, seeing that there were votes to be won by attacking the privileges of our public officials raised a storm about the use of state limos, threatened to end this privilege but subsequently decided against taking any action, because they had received too many complaints from those who would be affected.
The government has prepared regulations which were discussed by the House finance committee on Tuesday and will be sent to the plenum for a vote today. The new regulations might be an improvement of what existed in the past, but will not be put into effect until January 1, 2016. Apparently, the government wanted a transitional period – presumably it wanted to help officials avoid a nervous breakdown from losing their privilege too suddenly. Would the extra year help them come to terms with the loss?
There was another much better way to help permanent secretaries, commissioners, mayors, heads of sewage boards, etc. cope with this loss. The Inland Revenue Department could tax all those who use state limos for their private needs as it does in the case of individuals who have the use of a company car. In this way, the officials would be paying something back to the state (it would still cost them less than using their own car) for the privilege they enjoy and all citizens would thus be treated equally by the Inland Revenue Department.
From January 2016, only 29 officials will be entitled to use a state car 24 hours a day. For the remaining 73 officials eligible to a car, there would be a service vehicle they would only use on official business; they would have to drive to work in their own car. We suspect this is a law that would never be enforced. The existing law does not stipulate that officials could use a state car as their personal vehicle 24/7, but they still do. And nobody will stop them if they carry on doing so when the new law comes into effect in 2016.
There is a suspicion that the law that will be passed by the legislature today is primarily intended to pander to public opinion and come 2016, nobody would even remember it exists. It is a shame because we have an impoverished state that needs outside help to meet its financial obligations, but the privileged few are still not prepared to give up their privileges. And the government does not have the political will to upset the mandarins, announcing that the state was too poor to provide its officials with cars and abolish this ludicrous privilege.