Heartless MPs ignore stark reality

Image: GCIS

The national fiscus is buckling under lower tax revenue; higher debt and rising demands for better services from the population.

Unemployment is on the rise, which means more families and individuals may look to social welfare for survival.

Employers, both in the private and public sectors, are often at pains trying to convince their employees to accept below-inflation increases - that's if those workers are lucky enough to be promised salary raises at all.

Since the global economic meltdown of 2008, successive finance ministers have appealed for belt-tightening from South Africans. All of this because our economy is in an unhealthy state.

Yet the reaction of some MPs to the suggestion that our well-paid public representatives, who each earn between R1.2m and R2.4m a year, should have some of their benefits reduced seems to suggest they live in a different world from ours.

The Sunday Times yesterday reported that some of the MPs are threatening to resist proposals by the independent commission for remuneration of public office bearers that would see them lose some of the benefits they currently enjoy.

Over and above salaries that put them in the bracket of the country's top-earning elite, MPs enjoy free accommodation in Cape Town, a number of free flights a year as well as other benefits.

But perhaps one of the most contentious issue is the "loss of office" gratuity, which sees a former MP, when they leave office, getting an equivalent of four months' salary for every five years they were in parliament. This is over and above the normal pension payout due to them.

While these benefits were introduced as an incentive for some of the country's bright minds, who would have made much more money in the private sector, to stay in the National Assembly, the sad reality is that most of our current MPs are not of that calibre.

It is doubtful whether some of them are employable outside of politics at all.

Besides, those who choose to join parliament should do so primarily because they see it as public service, and not as a way of living like royalty a the expense of long-suffering taxpayers. They should welcome the proposed cuts if they are the true representatives of the people.