Eyebrows Raised as Indonesian Government Mulls Salary Hikes

Noting that they’ve done little more than pose for official photographs and attend cursory cabinet meetings, analysts and lawmakers on Sunday lambasted a proposal to raise the salaries of ministers in President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s newly appointed cabinet. The proposal runs counter to Yudhoyono’s promise to focus on improving the people’s welfare, critics said. Even some cabinet ministers tried to distance themselves from the idea of higher salaries. Ramli Effendi Idrus, a deputy state minister for administrative reform, revealed the proposal late last week. If Yudhoyono approves it, more than 7,000 state officials will get a pay raise, Ramli said. He didn’t say how much higher the new salaries might be. A minister’s basic monthly salary is about Rp 5 million ($530), but it can effectively reach as high as Rp 70 million because ministers are given numerous allowances. The last time ministers’ salaries were raised was in 2004. Ismed Hasan Putro, a public policy analyst with the Professional Civil Society, said the proposal risked sparking a public backlash because the ministers were only sworn in last week. “It’s better if the ministers prove their [worth] first before asking for higher salaries,” he said. “Don’t put more burden on the country when they haven’t done anything yet.” Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Rajasa sought to defuse the row on Sunday, saying the proposed increases were only under discussion. “I’m not saying that [salaries] must be raised, but there are considerations,” he was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Antara. At least one minister seemed unenthusiastic about a pay raise. Syarif Hasan, the state minister for cooperatives and small and medium-sized enterprises, said he was too busy planning his ministry’s 100-day program to worry about his salary. “I don’t think about it much,” he said. That didn’t satisfy lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari, a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). She said there was no reason to raise ministers’ salaries given their allowances for housing and transportation, among numerous other allowances. “Almost no expenditures are not covered,” she said. “Why should their salaries be raised?” However, House Speaker Marzuki Alie, a member of Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, said raising salaries was normal and noted that ministers had not received a raise in five years. “Ministers hold a position with heavy responsibilities,” he said. “Therefore, it’s their right [to receive higher salaries]. It can also help them [do better in] performing their duties, because they handle trillion-rupiah projects. If they’re not settled, they can engage in corruption.”

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