Monday, July 7, 2008

Let ministers set an example and tighten their own belts as well

So there must be big cuts in spending according to the Government - €500 million worth in fact. Trade unions have been warned that in order to rein in spending, pay freezes in the public sector may be inevitable. Of course this is a perfectly reasonable, albeit unpalatable for those involved, prospect. The simple, unfortunate reality is that now that there is less money to go round, wage increases cannot be sustained. I'm sure there are many who feel they deserve a little more at the end of the week, but at this point the greater economic welfare of the country must come first. That odious phrase "the greater good” springs to mind.

So while nurses, gardai, teachers and many other workers who form the backbone of our society brace themselves for rough times ahead, one group of public servants at least won't have too many financial worries. On top of wage increases set for next year of between five and seven per cent (which were diverted after a public up roar, but not cancelled), politicians will now benefit from increases in their expense allowances. These allowances cover travel, accommodation, food, and mobile phone expenses and are also available for thousands of the country's civil servants.
Now, I imagine the workers of this country find the idea of pay freezes a little hard to swallow when TDs earning €95,000 basic are set to have their sizeable wallets wadded further. Why can't our leaders (and opposition for that matter, who have been curiously silent on the matter) set an example and reject these wage and allowance increases, and swallow the bitter pill that is the recession like the rest of us? Let them lead the way and show the trade unions that wage restraint is necessary; so necessary in fact that they themselves are prepared to suffer. I'd imagine a colossal amount of money could be retained for the public coffers should the petrol and accommodation costs of TDs, councilors and other public servants be reined in. And it’s not just a case of deserved expenses being more carefully managed. When one examines the requirements for claiming various expenses, the true extent of the waste and indeed, greed becomes all too apparent. For instance, a TD may claim travel and accommodation expenses if they live over 25km from Leinster house.

25km? Wow. Who in there right mind would travel 25km to work? Right now the sound of three quarters of the population of Leinster grinding their teeth in commuter frustration is swelling in my ears.

For God's sake, who nowadays doesn't travel at least that far into work everyday - "everyday" incidentally, is not a concept with which frequenters of the Dail or the Seanad would be familiar. And guess what? If I travel to work, eat, or call some one, guess who pays for it? You guessed it, mise. Most people in this country have to foot the bill for their living expenses, that's what their wages are for. What exactly is a TD supposed to do with his/her generous pay check? I mean everything you, or I worry about is already taken care of. Look of course I understand that some (not all, Dublin TDs also claim hefty expenses) politicians have to travel large distances and are often away from home because of their work. And naturally they need some compensation for this. But what we have now is ridiculous and wasteful. Last year the top claimant, TD Paul Kehoe, claimed over €104,000. Is this kind of expenditure really necessary?

First of all, instead of claiming €140 a night for a hotel, how about politicians stay in a B&B or travel lodge. They'll manage I'm sure. Considering "normal" people have to pay their own way when they travel to work, how about politicians be given a fuel allowance for trips outside of a 50km radius of Leinster house, instead of a 25km one? They could pay themselves for their first 50km travelled in a day, and be reimbursed for each kilometre after that. And why not roll such changes out amongst all civil servants? Such changes would still represent reasonable financial support for people serving the state, without bankrupting the tax payer at a time of economic meltdown. It is time for the Government to start walking the walk, instead of just talking the talk. The first politician to turn down his/her wage and expenses increases and set a precedent could be guaranteed their seat returned to them in 2011.

People don't like hypocrites.

No comments: