How Iraqi politicians get paid $1,000 a minute, don't make laws and live it up for free at Baghdad's finest hotel
1 November 2010
Politicians in Iraq have raked in more than $1,000 a minute for working just TWENTY minutes this year.
They picked up a fee of $90,000 and a monthly salary of $22,500 a month for doing next to nothing and staying free in Baghdad's finest hotel.
Their lavish perks and salaries emerged as the 325 lawmakers prepared to hold second parliamentary session since the election last March.
Hard work: Iraqi MPs debating in parliament. They get $22,500 a month and perks at Baghdad's finest hotel
But there is growing resentment among ordinary Iraqis struggling to make ends meet that politicians are living the high life.
A mid-level government employee makes around $600 a month and ordinary people lack basic services like water and electricity.
A politician's basic monthly salary is $10,000 - just $4,500 short of that of rank-and-file members of the U.S. Congress.
In addition, an MP gets a $12,500 monthly allowance for housing and security arrangements, for a combined total of $22,500.
They also get to spend nights free at Baghdad's Rasheed Hotel in the relatively safe environment of the Green Zone, regardless of whether parliament is in session. And they collect a $600 per day when traveling inside or out of Iraq.
Once out of office, they get 80 percent of their salary monthly for life, and for eight years they can keep the diplomatic passports that they - and often their families - are issued.
Since June, when the lawmakers first met for 20 minutes, Iraq's second elected parliament since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime has failed to convene.
Sharp divisions among political blocs have prevented the formation of a new government, and not a single law has been debated, much less passed.
But it did decide to leave the session open which allowed MPs to pick up a $90,00 fee to cover their expenses over the next four years.
In a mosque sermon, an aide to Iraq's top Shiite cleric urged parliament to lower their salaries when they next meet.
'It's reasonable to request the lawmakers' salaries do not reach a lavish level,' Ahmed al-Safi said.
'This is a very important issue ... I do not know why they keep turning a blind eye to it.'
Meanwhile, Iraqis who voted in large numbers in hope of strengthening their democracy after years of authoritarian rule, war and sectarian violence have grown bitter at the politicians they chose to represent their interests.
'Instead of working hard and doing a good job, they are enjoying a paid vacation,' said Jalal Mohammed, a retired clerk for the administrative council in the southern city of Basra.
'I think the parliament members should only be paid if they do something useful for their country.'
Lawmakers justify high salaries and benefits saying they risk their lives participating in the political process.
'We are exposed to violent incidents in our houses, on the streets, and even in the parliament,' said Sheik Haidar al-Jorani, a Basra lawmaker with the prime minister's State of Law party