Sunday, December 19, 2010

Greece and the Priviliges of Parliamentary Life...Ioannis Kapodistrias, Where Are You?

A lot has been written about Greece's Members of Parliament and their privileges as well as whether in fact the 300 MPs which Greece has today should be drastically reduced. If we consider that around half of Greece's work force have taken great cuts in salaries and pension payments especially in the public sector, the wide range of benefits which MPs seem to still be getting are an insult to the  intelligence of the general public...  

This coupled with the government's very apparent unwillingness to take action against well-known tax evaders and to further investigate major scandals such as the Siemens corruption case and the Vatopedio land swap, the unbelievable case of former Minister Tsohadzopoulos (who, along with his family members, appears to have interests in several highly valuable properties including the one he lives in on one of the most expensive streets in Athens, close by the Acropolis, on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street) and other such cases of social injustice is adding fuel to the fire of the unrest and dissatisfaction in Greece. 

During the demonstrations that took place in Athens last week,  one of the more moderates,  former Minister of Transport Kostis Hadjidakis was attacked and beaten. Hadjidakis,  apart from being involved in the privatisation of Greece's national carrier, Olympic Airways during his tenure as Minister, is not one of those MPs who appear to have provoked or been involved in any of the major scandals that have plagued Greek public life recently, and the attack took many by surprise. 

No one can condone such an action but it is increasingly obvious that resentment of the 'untouchable' status and lack of accountability or responsibility that Greece's MPs  have seems to be escalating dangerously. 

The system of benefits enjoyed by Greece's Members of Parliament, past or present, along with hundreds of Parliamentary employees is facing increasing scrutiny by the people. The people are being asked to sacrifice much of the basics in their daily lives, simply because public funds were squandered, or at best, mismanaged,  by the very people who were elected to office to safeguard them and to work for the benefit of the public good,  but were too busy looking after their personal interests, as well as those of their closest and dearest, to the detriment of the public good.  

In times of economic turmoil such as the crisis Greece is going through when people are being asked to sacrifice more and more,  it is only fair that those in power lead by example, and in Greece this surely does not appear to be the case, despite the torrent of rhetoric around us!

In September this year, Nikos Vafiadis took a walk down the hallowed corridors of Parliament and wrote a very revealing analysis of these benefits in the daily Kathimerini titled   'Even the... corridors have privileges'  Και οι... διάδρομοι έχουν προνόμια...

'Το 2010 οι 300 της Βουλής θα μοιραστούν το ποσό των 42,5 εκατ. ευρώ. 

Συνεπώς ο μέσος όρος των μηνιαίων αποδοχών τους ανέρχεται σε 10.000 ευρώ. Το 50% της βουλευτικής αποζημίωσης φορολογείται αυτοτελώς και μόνο το υπόλοιπο 50% προστίθεται στα τυχόν άλλα εισοδήματα. Περίπου 35 εκατ. ευρώ θα μοιραστούν μέσα στο 2010 οι συνταξιούχοι βουλευτές ή οι σύζυγοι και οι άγαμες θυγατέρες θανόντων βουλευτών. Αλλο ένα κονδύλι 4,3 εκατ. ευρώ προορίζεται για τις συντάξεις των πρώην πρωθυπουργών. Σημειώνεται ότι για την κατοχύρωση βουλευτικής σύνταξης απαιτούνται μόλις 4 χρόνια, ενώ όσοι έχουν πρωτοεκλεγεί πριν από το 1993 συνταξιοδοτούνται από τα 55 τους χρόνια. Ο πρόσφατος σαρωτικός νόμος για το ασφαλιστικό δεν άγγιξε στο ελάχιστο τους επαγγελματίες της πολιτικής.

Επιπλέον, στους πρώην πρωθυπουργούς αλλά και στους πρώην προέδρους της Βουλής παραχωρούνται γραφεία μέσα στο Κοινοβούλιο, ακόμη και στην περίπτωση που δεν έχουν επανεκλεγεί βουλευτές, όπως είναι η περίπτωση του Κώστα Σημίτη. Τον πιο ευρύχωρο και ηλιόλουστο χώρο στον δεύτερο όροφο, με εξαιρετική θέα στον Εθνικό Κήπο, εξασφάλισε πρόσφατα ο Κώστας Καραμανλής.

Οσοι βουλευτές είναι άνω των 65 χρόνων λαμβάνουν ταυτόχρονα και βουλευτική αποζημίωση και βουλευτική σύνταξη. 

Οι συνταξιούχοι βουλευτές είναι οι μοναδικοί Ελληνες που έχουν τη δυνατότητα να λαμβάνουν παράλληλα και δεύτερη σύνταξη από το επάγγελμα που ασκούν ή ασκούσαν, εφόσον δεν εργάζονται στο Δημόσιο, ή και τρίτη στην περίπτωση που ήταν συνδικαλιστές, πρώην δήμαρχοι ή πρώην νομάρχες (χορηγίες). 

Μέσα στην τριετία 2010-2012 υπολογίζεται από το Γενικό Λογιστήριο του Κράτους ότι μπορεί να δοθούν στους συνταξιούχους βουλευτές άλλα περίπου 80 εκατ. ευρώ που διεκδικούν αναδρομικά, λόγω των αναδρομικών αυξήσεων που πήραν πρόσφατα οι δικαστές (έχουν πάρει ήδη το 25%, ενώ το υπόλοιπο 75% θα καταβληθεί το Μάιο του 2011), όταν οι τελευταίοι αύξησαν τους μισθούς τους κατά περίπου 80%. Αποτελεί πάγια μέθοδο η διεκδίκηση εκ μέρους των συνταξιούχων βουλευτών των αυξήσεων που λαμβάνουν οι ανώτεροι δικαστικοί, οι οποίες μετά την τελική δικαίωσή τους επεκτείνονται και στους εν ενεργεία βουλευτές....'

You can hear much of this article in the video that follows...

We have said it before, but we will say it again! Greece's politicians, from the political leaders down, should be leading by example if they want to be treated with respect...

  • They should take voluntary cuts in their salaries and benefits - anything else is pure hypocrisy and will fuel even greater resentment and dissatisfaction.
  • They should send their children to public schools instead of sending them to exclusive private schools...maybe then, we would see a revamp of the education system for the benefit of all students.
  • They should go to the IKA doctors...maybe if they had to wait in line from 5 in the morning to see a doctor, or fill a prescription, maybe then they would comprehend the anguish of the old age pensioner who has worked hard all his life only to see his contributions disappear.
  •  They should go to the public hospitals, not as public figures but incognito and see the dire results of the major shortages in staff and supplies  - maybe then they would provide for hospitals that allowed both staff and patients to be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Above all, they should be following the example of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the First Governor of Greece and one of our Global Greeks, who selflessly refused to touch public money, judging that his income and personal wealth was sufficient for him to live on... 

The only problem is, there aren't too many Kapodistrias around...unfortunately!

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