Sunday, 6 September 2015

Pay Them More Not Less

Everything I hear someone crib about the salaries paid to our M.Ps or M.L.As or the perks given to them, such as subsidized canteen food, I feel like shouting that we should pay our politicians more and not less.

The logic is this. Unless an M.P or an M.L.A is paid a living wage, the possibility of such M.P or M.L.A stooping to corruption is much higher. Also, by offering our M.Ps and M.L.As a salary which is comparable to what one would receive in the coporate world, one would attract talent which would otherwise not enter politics.

Currently Indian M.P.s receive a salary of Rs. 50,000 per month. In addition, they receive a number of perks, such as free train travel etc. A Parliamentary panel has proposed that MPs salaries be revised and I’m totally in favour.

MLA salaries vary according from state to state. In Delhi, an MLA gets a basic salary of Rs. 12,000 a month, but various allowances add up to another Rs. 45,000 or so. In Maharashtra, legislators receive a salary of Rs. 74,000 per month.

It can be argued that these salaries are sufficient for a simple lifestyle, that one should not enter politics if one is not willing to lead a Spartan life in the service of the people. The counter-argument would be that politics requires not only honest people, but also competent ones. In fact, we need people like Raghuram Rajan more than ones like Anna Hazare. Can you imagine someone like Rajan working for peanuts?

In western democracies, elected representatives are paid well, way better than Indian politicians, taking into account the differences in exchange rates and purchasing power. In the UK, M.Ps receive an annual salary of GBP 74,000 per annum. To give you an idea how much this amounts to, a G.P working for the National Health Service would earn between £55,412 p.a. and £83,617 p.a. Over and above their salary, MPs are reimbursed for the cost of running an office, employing staff, having a second home in London and travelling between Parliament and their constituency.

However, better pay does not automatically exclude corruption. For example, Italian politicians are the best paid in Europe and also among the most corrupt. However, paying our politicians a decent salary will make it morally easier to clamp down on corruption.

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