Regarding the recent increase of salaries and populism

25 Maj 2023, 23:25Op-Ed Mero Baze

The Albanian Parliament recently is facing a backlash following a general increase of salaries, including those of MPs. While the salaries of MPs had not seen a formal increase since 2001, in the past there have been non-taxable bonuses paid to them. Therefore, if the monthly salary for an MP used to be 165 000 Lek (approximately 1500 Euros), the said MP would also receive a monthly bonus of 500 Euros for transportation and phone bills. Apart from this, MPs also used to receive bonuses in case they needed to travel for work and often these bonuses would be almost equal to their monthly salaries.

Afraid of the populist pressure, previous governments did not dare to increase the official salaries of MPs and often retorted to non-taxable bonuses as well as other paid expenses. Considering that the Parliament recently voted in favor of increasing the salaries of MPs, it should also take a second look and perhaps even cut the bonuses that they have been receiving, while covering only the specific costs of each MP in regards to the electoral area where they work.

MPs salaries are not the real economic threat to the state. The real threat are MPs who get caught in the pockets of criminals or lobbyists looking to control the state with their money. This is a serious crime, difficult to prevent, which can cause some real damage to the state as well as to the country’s economy.

The same can be said for political parties. Nowadays we often complain that big businessmen and individuals sanctioned by the West, are practically buying political parties and forget that most parties are forced to organize their electoral campaigns without any state funds. If the state does not finance political parties to make sure that they enter the electoral campaign as equals, then obviously many of them will turn to people willing to finance them, who often tend to be incriminated individuals.

It would be less costly for everyone if the campaign of an MP or a political party was to be funded by the state and serve the public interest. It would be a lot costlier on the other hand, if the state did not fund electoral campaigns and thus create room for organized crime to funnel its money into politics.

Therefore, if we want a better judgment regarding the impact that the increase of salary can have on the country’s economy, we should pay more attention to how this would affect inflation and if such changes will have the right impact for the public good. An MP does not become dangerous because they will be paid more, but they would be a lot more dangerous if they are being paid by people who want to control the state.

An increase of salaries risks worsening the inflation and the public debt in every country and hence are always seen with caution. In our country so far they have only sparked an increase in populism, which was already high even when our salaries were low.

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