Parliament: Population 1,700

Greece?s Parliament, according to the last available figures, employs some 1,700 people, or the equivalent of the population of Koroni, a picturesque seaside town in the southwestern Peloponnese. And, like the seaside town, where, according to an old Greek adage dating to the Ottoman occupation, there is always a kindly uncle to get you into a cushy job, it appears there are 300 uncles and aunts (read MPs) in Parliament willing to help out one of their own.

Of the 1,700 people listed as being employed in Parliament, 670 are so-called ?regular? employees, 541 are ?private individuals,? or contract workers, just under 100 are labeled ?specially appointed staff,? and 360 are police officers.

In comparison to the pre-crisis era, of course, the number of parliamentary employees is smaller. At the beginning of summer 2006, Parliament had 945 ?regular? employees, 97 ?specially appointed staff? and 671 ?private individuals.? Over the course of a few years after that, and as Greece headed toward the abyss, the numbers rose. On May 31, 2007, the figures for the corresponding categories were 938, 136 and 728. A year later, the numbers were more or less the same, but, in the watershed summer of 2009, when Greece applied for a bailout loan to the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, Parliament had 989 ?regular? employees, 164 ?specially appointed staff? and 865 ?private individuals.?

That summer was also when the last official figures concerning the number of employees in Parliament were published. Since then, it has been impossible to obtain any formal data on the subject in writing. In the same scandalous manner, public documents regarding the parliamentary budget and the regulations governing hirings have been deemed confidential. In short, Greek taxpayers don?t know and cannot find out exactly how much Parliament is costing them.

Anyone who spends several hours a day in Parliament, like a parliamentary reporter, for example, will see a lot of familiar faces, and many are indeed there from morning to night, almost every day of the week, doing their jobs. Among them there are stenographers, secretaries and other staff, such as one man I saw recently crying over yet another newspaper report lambasting the ?corrupt? workers of the House. But there are also a lot more who never set foot in Parliament, yet receive a fat paycheck every month. Who and how many are they? Not a word from anyone.

The last available figures from 2009 reveal much that is worthy of further exploration, like, for instance, the fact that Parliament at the time employed a ?scientific committee? made up of 10 members, as well as 18 ?scientific associates and advisers,? two ?special scientific associates as support for the scientific committee,? one secretary, also for the scientific committee, as well as another 48 ?scientific associates? hired under a nebulous regulation (Article 162) of the Parliamentary Procedures Handbook. All of these employees came under the ?private individual? category, a vague label that also included eight people paid in a ?special account? and another 70 people hired as maintenance staff for the vehicle pool and the premises, to cover ?passing and temporary needs.?

Every person working in Parliament costs the Greek taxpayer, and the numbers, taken comparatively, are revealing. In 2005, the salary bill for regular, private, temporary and so-called ?special? categories of staff, along with ?additional and attendant fees for political staff, military and police,? came to 71,570,200 euros. Five years later, and following more hirings, the bill had climbed almost 43 percent to 102.4 million euros.

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