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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    WED, 05 JUL 2000 18:31:08 GMT

    Slovenia and Privileges

    Salaries Out of This World

    The Slovenian delegates work as much as they can, have the worst rating since the establishment of the new state on June 24 nine years ago, but take salaries according to their needs.

    AIM Ljubljana, June 24, 2000

    "The last year's increase of delegate salaries has exceeded all reasonable limits". This is how the Ljubljana business magazine "Finances" recently commented on the phenomenon which has, in the meantime, acquired enormous proportions. And while the public assessed the work of the Slovenian Parliament as the worst in nine-year-long history of the young state, mandates of the current delegates are nearing their end while their salaries are sky-high.

    The data speak for themselves. In Slovenia, the productivity grew by 1.7 percent, real wages by some 3.3 percent and the domestic gross social product by cca 3.5 percent. On the other hand, delegate salaries have increased by as much as 5.8 percent. At first glance, this doesn't seem much. But, bearing in mind the fact that the economic situation of the lowest population strata in Slovenia is deteriorating, it is clear why has this increase of already high salaries, by only few percentage points, caused such negative reactions of the public.

    Figures are merciless - last year the state allocated 891,072,869 tolars (approximately nine million German Marks) for salaries of officials and delegates to the Slovenian Parliament. Just a year earlier, this figure was much lower - eight million DM (more precisely 7,93). This means that in six months, in nominal terms, delegate salaries have risen by as much as 12.3 percent, and in real terms by 5.8 percent! In comparison to the delegates, pensioners fared the worst because their pensions grew by minimal 0.9 percent. For the sake of better clarification of these relations it should be emphasised that last year the German Mark rose by 4.9 percent in relation to the Slovenian tolar.

    The culmination of sarcasm is that this increase of delegate salaries is the indirect result of the Law on Minimal Wages which was meant to protect vulnerable population. And since the salaries of delegates, judges, doctors and others are "conveniently" regulated by the same law, even the minimum increase of basic salaries of those at the bottom of this pyramid, brings enormous profits to those at the top of the social ladder. Although the legality of the operation is not disputable, the question arises whether such practice of increasing one's own (delegate's) salaries is legitimate and moral. Or, for that matter, hypocritical. In societies with healthy economies it is customary for the wage rise not to exceed the growth of domestic gross social product. In addition, the growth of the salaries of the political elite has other negative effects - as a result of "demonstration effect" soon after this rise, workers in all other economic branches demand the increase. And that is how it begins -round and round in circles.

    This definitely is not the first scandal with the delegate salaries in Slovenia; back in 1995, the local public was for the first time shocked by disclosed details regarding the financial construction which was meant to cover costs of Slovenian officials in the amount of 1.2 billion tolars, which at that time was equal to some DM 15 million! At that time, all in accordance with the mentioned draft, delegate salaries were supposed to grow by some 30 percent, which raised a storm of dissatisfaction. And not without reason: the basis for the calculation of salaries of the national representatives are five average salaries in the economy (which at that time amounted to 35,725.00 tolars, i.e. DM 584). However, in accordance with the new formula, a Slovenian delegate with the lowest salary (out of the total 93 delegates and officials of the State Parliament) was to receive about DM 3,300 per month (naturally in tolars), while the majority would collect nearly DM 4,000.

    That plan of skyrocketing delegate pays failed because of public protests and disapproval, i.e. criticism of the electorate, but the delegates did not give up. They proceeded to Plan B, and approved the method of "clandestine" increase of incomes. Personalised, the history of delegate salaries looks as follows: Izidor Rejc, who is on the top of the list, got some DM 116 thousand annually, in other words a bit over DM 5,500 per month. The same calculation applies to the Government. The average salary of a Slovenian minister amounts to DM 5 thousand and the new Prime Minister, Andrej Bajuk, receives monthly salary of DM 6 thousand. And that is not all; delegates and Ministers also receive other benefits for their work. These include allowances for officials, paid travel expenses (which are sometimes higher than salaries), use of service car and - as it turned out in the case of former Defence Minister Jelko Kacin - right to an official credit card!

    And that is not all. In addition, a delegate who is, for example, a leader of a delegate group and receives an official's allowance for presiding over one of parliamentary commissions, on this account can get as much as DM 10 thousand per month. This is truly a fabulous sum for an ordinary worker with monthly DM 600 or a highly qualified teacher who cannot get more than DM 1,000.

    Salaries and privileges of state officials are a constant topic of the press. Because of criticism and reproaches of the media, the Slovenian parliamentarians had to give up various benefits until now; for example, in early 1993, after the public exerted pressure and raised objections because it learned that delegate average salaries would range between DM 2,500 and 3,000, they were forced to officially adopt in Parliament a decision on the reduction of their own salaries by some 20 percent! A little later, the Constitutional Court annulled the decision according to which delegates could retire after only 25 years of service, although despite criticism, that annulment did not apply to those who took advantage of that possibility on time.

    Having learnt from experience, the delegates "pushed" their last raise through Parliament without making much noise. The reaction of some media showed that they did not fully succeed in this. Moreover, it turned out that salaries were perhaps the decisive factor in the recent decision-making on the new Slovenian Prime Minister designate, Andrej Bajuk. Had not Bajuk secured the support of Parliament, and had the Government definitely fallen and the Parliament and delegates had been dissolved (in contrast to Government and state officials) that would have meant the end of their dream-like salaries.

    In this way some delegates could think and calculate carefully and probably for that reason, have voted influenced by the fact that early elections could deprive them of several delegate salaries. Several dozens of thousands of German Marks on average. Have honourable delegates adequately assessed their needs remains to be seen very soon, by the autumn general elections for Parliament, at the latest. Then the grassroots will have their say.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)