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Our View: MPs hide behind smoke and mirrors for pay hike

The leaders of the two major parties - Averof Neophytou of DISY and Andros Kyprianou of AKEL

IT hasn’t been very long since the government unveiled a proposal to restore frozen pay hikes to civil servants in 2016, a year ahead of schedule, which raised plenty of hackles.

Now comes a reportedly new plan to ‘streamline’ salaries across the civil service because some 15 officials are paid more than the president, and some senior civil servants are paid more than MPs.

The distortions must be corrected, an unnamed finance ministry official told daily Simerini.

For example, the president is paid €6,007 net a month, but the Attorney-general is paid €6,526. MPs are paid €3,594 a month but ministry permanent secretaries can earn as much as €5,329 a month. According to Simerini, the ‘correction’ was requested by deputies ahead of the parliamentary elections in May 2016.

MPs are not allowed to vote on pay rises for themselves and they may argue that it will be the next parliament who benefits and not them. But what are the chances that all 56 MPs will be voted out of office so that a new set of scroungers can benefit from the higher pay?

The excuse that because civil service pay scales are so complicated the simpler option would be to bring MPs salaries up to those levels rather than vice versa, is simply pathetic.

Do they think people will forget that though MPs salaries may be lower than some high-ranking civil servants, their expense allowances are far greater?

By couching the request as ‘the streamlining of salaries across the board’, the current deputies may think no one will notice that they are the ones looking for more money on the probability that they will be re-elected.  They are probably right for the most part because no matter how many times people are fleeced by their elected representatives in Cyprus, they keep being voted back in.

According to the Simerini report, the finance ministry – as it did when reversing the frozen pay hikes – again offered assurances that the changes would have “negligible fiscal impact”, but surely that is not the point.

This smoke-and-mirrors attempt to get a pay rise through the back door is just another slap in the face to the electorate, and these are the same people who came out and criticised the government for giving the frozen pay rises back to the civil servants for the very same reason.

There are no words.

There is a theory that the higher the pay of elected representatives, the higher calibre of person the job attracts and the less they are susceptible to being corrupted. That may work in Singapore which has adopted this approach, but in Cyprus, sadly, we would just end up attracting a higher calibre of freeloader.

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