Friday, August 17, 2007

So What Would You Pay Our Lawmakers?

I don't want to influence your initial reaction so I'll reserve my comments till you see this email I've received multiple times. (The US context and debates in the press are similar. For those unfamiliar with India, $1 = Rs 40, i.e., a US dollar is worth 40 indian rupees, and a "crore" equals ten million, i.e., a one followed by seven zeroes. Also, an MP is elected every 5 years, and is like a cross between a US Senator and a Congressman.) Here goes:


I want to be an MP in India....

Salary & Govt. Concessions for a Member of Parliament (MP)
Monthly Salary: Rs. 12,000
Expense for Constitution per month: Rs. 10,000
Office expenditure per month: Rs. 14,000
Traveling concession (Rs. 8 per km): Rs. 48,000
(e.g., For a visit from kerala to Delhi & return: 6000 km)
Daily DA TA during parliament meets: Rs. 500
Charge for 1 class (A/C) in train: Free (For any number of times) (All over India )
Charge for Business Class in flights: Free for 40 trips / year (With wife or P.A.)
Rent for MP hostel at Delhi: Free
Electricity costs at home: Free up to 50,000 units
Local phone call charge: Free up to 1,70,000 calls.

TOTAL expense for a MP per year : Rs. 32,00,000
TOTAL expense for 5 years : Rs. 1,60,00,000
For 534 MPs, the expense for 5 years : Rs. 8,54,40,00,000 (nearly Rs. 855 cores)

Do they really deserve this? And they are elected by THE PEOPLE OF INDIA , by the largest democratic . process in the world, not intruded into the parliament on their own or by any qualification. This is how all our tax money is been swallowed and price hike on our regular commodities....... Think of the great democracy we have.............


Here are my comments - let's look at all these numbers another way:

Rs. 855 crores is Rs. 8.55 billion even if you accept all these aggregations.

India's population is 1.13 billion.

So all the MPs put together cost an average indian less than Rs. 8 or under 20 cents for 5 years.

Another way of looking at it: So we spend Rs. 1.6 crores per MP every 5 years. How much do candidates spend to get elected? Counting all the major candidates per contest I'm figuring it's between Rs. 10 and 100 crores.

The media plays up the same kind of story here in the US as well. It becomes big news when the lawmakers vote themselves a salary increase, and their health benefits are criticised as being too generous. Instead, I'd argue that it is better to pay Congressmen and Senators handsome salaries and benefits, say $1-2 million a year each. The total tab will come to $1 -2 billion annually, which is miniscule compared to the multi-trillion dollar federal budgets and decisions that Congress votes upon. Then lawmakers are less likely to be bought over Abramoff style with pettty bribes like games show tickets or rides in private jets.

This is one reason why I found the You-Tube CNN debate questons posed to democratic presidential candidates so inane. Candidates were asked if they'll be willing to accept minimum wages as their presidential salary if elected. Couldn't CNN choose any better questions in the final 30+ to air, when they had received almost 4,000 entries? If we want good, smart, enlightened leaders for our president, why would we pay them the lowest wage?

What do you think?