Indonesians oppose lawmakers' demand for higher allowances
By Channel NewsAsia's Indonesia Bureau Chief Sujadi Siswo
JAKARTA : Indonesia's Parliament is looking to increase the allowances of its members despite strong opposition from the public to the controversial proposal.
Critics say the demand by lawmakers for more money from the state is blatantly insensitive especially since there is already a heavy strain on national coffers to help the poor and the survivors of the Asian tsunami.
The Indonesian parliament is thinking of raising the monthly allowances for its members by up to 34 percent, and for office holders, like the speaker and his deputy, by a hefty 85 percent.
The allowances, paid out of state coffers, will be added to their fixed salaries, prompting critics to label it a pay hike.
With many Indonesians still struggling to make ends meet or still homeless after the tsunami, the timing could not be worse.
Luky Djani, Indonesia Corruption Watch, said: "This is a new legislative and 70 percent of them are new into this office. They should perform well first then ask for the increase in salary."
But lawmakers say without added financial muscle, parliament cannot serve as an effective check on the government.
Member of Parliament, said: "For me, I have 4 research staff. I'm paying from my own pocket. Not all parliamentary members have the same resources as I do. But I think it is only fair that we provide such facilities...so that parliamentarians in Indonesia can perform better in serving the public."
But the public perception is that many lawmakers skip parliament sittings and those who do turn up spend much of their time engaged in long unproductive debates instead of getting their work done.
There are 55 new bills to be debated this year and till now not a single one has been passed.
Observers say the 550 lawmakers have yet to convince the public they're playing an effective role.
Eight months into the job, they have only passed the revision to this year's state budget and already parliament will begin its recess this week. - CNA /ch
Sorry voor de bold text. Maar dat moest even t.b.v. de duidelijkheid.