An exponential rise in lawmaker’s salaries and other perks and privileges when the economy is going through an economic crisis is baffling. The fact that Senators drafted a bill seeking a two-fold increase in their salaries shows their indifference to the plight of the common man.
The draft bill was proposed by several Senators including the chief whip of the ruling PTI seeking an increase in the salaries of Chairman Senate and National Assembly Speaker from Rs225,000 to Rs879,000- a whopping increase of 390 percent- to match that of a Supreme Court judge. It also called for doubling the salaries of all parliament members along with increasing the travel allowances.
There has been intense hue and cry (including from the government’s side) over the proposed bill. Prime Minister Imran Khan was the first to express his displeasure over the pay hike. His office had earlier denied reports that that prime minister’s salary has been raised. PM Imran Khan had stated that his own salary was insufficient for his personal expenses but there was an ongoing austerity campaign to reduce government expenditures.
Given the controversy which surrounded the raise, it was unlikely that consensus would be reached and thus the bill was overwhelmingly rejected. The federal government has also distanced itself from the Senator who introduced the bill saying that he was doing so in his individual capacity and the party does not support such measures.
This does not mean that lawmakers do not deserve a pay raise but the economic conditions in the country pose a greater burden. The salaries of several lawmakers are some of the lowest in the region and many do not have any other source of income. The only problem is the timing, as, under the current circumstances, the bill is unreasonable for the country has not yet come out of the economic crisis.
Lawmakers should set an example in the current economic situation. The pay raise shows their indifference to the plight of the common man and the downtrodden segments of society. This is an important matter but ill-timed and it is in the interest of the nation that the bill has been shunned.