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Latvia's MPs vote salary raise

  • 2000-08-24
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - For years the Latvian government has been talking about raising the minimum wage by 10 lats ($6) per month, bringing it to 60 lats per month. Still, talks back and forth along with calculations on state income and losses have not led anywhere.

But on Aug. 14 Parliament made a decision to raise salaries for Parliament deputies by just a little more than the existing minimum wage.

MP Rihard Piks said it's not a very big raise, and that it's more about organizing the deputies' salaries.

"We changed the salaries because the average salaries have increased," Piks said.

The salaries will equal the average wage of those who work multiplied by a certain coefficient. New base salaries for MPs will start at 451 lats per month, which is 3.2 times more than the average salary, according to LETA news reports.

Gunars Kusins, head of Parliament's legal bureau, said the new changes in the parliamentarians' salaries mean if the state budget drops from one year to the next, so will the MPs' salaries, because they are connected to the average salary within a particular field.

"I know there are plans in Parliament to change the whole salary system, and use the same system in the whole country as in Parliament," Kusins said.

Kusins said a standard salary for an MP in Latvia is 282 lats ($470) per month, and the 451 lats salary is only additional.

"If a deputy misses one meeting, he or she could lose 20 percent of the salary," Kusins said. "I don't know any country with such hard restrictions."

Kusins said an MP will need a just cause to miss a meeting, and "drinking vodka on a day before a meeting is not a just cause."

Money for the increase will come from a special budget which is part of the state budget.

"According to section 33 in the Latvian constitution, MPs receive their salary from the state budget," Kusins said.

MP Janis Straume told LETA that there is no need for additional funding from the budget for changing the deputies' salary system.

As of November a deputy will also be handed an additional eight lats for each attendance in a parliamentary committee, and four lats for every sub-committee attended.

Kusins said that it's strange that MPs will get money for something they normally would have to do within the job description of being an MP.

"It's a part of an MP's job," Kusins said.

The Latvian parliament is open all year, and every month there is a maximum of 14 Parliament commission meetings and four sub-commission meetings.

This means an active MP, attending maximum of commission and sub-commission meetings, could earn 1536 lats extra per year, just by attending meetings. This is more than two-and-a-half-years' salary for people working for minimum wage.