NEWS

Italian ministers get fattest paycheck

It has become something of a trend in Europe for prime ministers to start with themselves when announcing cuts to government salaries. Spain?s Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, for example, reduced his own salary from 91,982 euros before taxes to 78,185. This means his successor, Mariano Rajoy, now earns as much as a Greek MP.

Of course, as with every rule, there are exceptions. For example, Irish prime ministers are exceptionally well paid, even for European standards and despite a reduction of 14,000 euros a year in their salary, which now stands at 200,000 euros, while the British prime minister receives 172,000 from 194,000 pounds, a reduction agreed to by both Gordon Brown and his successor David Cameron.

The best-paid ministers in Europe are the Italians, with salaries of around 16,000 euros a month, followed by British deputies, who, after a 5 percent reduction imposed by Cameron, now receive 14,000 euros a month. French President Francois Hollande was stricter in his budget cuts and slashed his cabinet?s salaries by 30 percent as soon as he assumed office, meaning that French ministers now get paid about 10,000 euros a month. In contrast, Germany recently introduce a small raise for its ministers, who get 13,800 euros a month. Meanwhile, their Spanish counterparts get the lowest monthly income, at 5,800 euros.

Even with the reductions, these salaries are still very good, especially in a time of crisis.

At the beginning of the year, the Italian statistical service Istat compiled a list of the earnings of Italian and other European deputies, which shows that, contrary to logic, the salaries of MPs do not reflect a country?s general economic health. This list revealed that Italian deputies are the best paid in Europe, as they supplement their salaries by around 60 percent with various bonuses and perks.

French MPs? salaries seem more reasonable, as France is Europe?s second-biggest economy and its deputies come second in the pay rankings, at 13,500 euros a month, though Germany, which is the EU?s biggest economy, ranks thirds in terms of what its MPs get paid.

Life for British MPs is much harder as they have to make do in one of the most expensive cities of Europe on just 6,562 euros. Belgian MPs, meanwhile, who earn around 17,000 euros a month, must rankle knowing that Euro MPs in Brussels are earning significantly more than them.

Greek deputies, like their Irish counterparts, should feel fortunate in comparison given that they are among the top earners in Europe, even though their countries? economies are among the worst performers. Greek MPs earn around 8,700 euros a month before taxes, even though the country has a debt of approximately 160 percent of GDP.

Over in the United States, President Barack Obama announced a freeze on the salaries of all high-ranking White House staffers as well as state administrators as soon as he entered office, resulting in American politicians and civil servants earning significantly less than their European peers. For example, the average wage for the head of the American Federal Reserve is half that of the chief of the European Central Bank.

Furthermore, Obama, who is in theory the most powerful man in the world, earns 317,000 euros a year, which is almost as much as European Council President Herman Van Rompuy. Of course, most American officials also have careers in the private sector before and after their term office, such as Obama, who was a millionaire before he was elected on the sales of his book ?The Audacity of Hope,? while Bill Clinton declared an income of 13 million dollars after the end of his term, which he had made delivering lectures.