More equal than others

In a unanimous vote this summer, parliamentary deputies decided to renew their fleet of luxury, tax-free cars. Ten days ago, members of Parliament struck again, voting themselves higher salaries. All they demanded was a 3.5 percent hike but voters were nevertheless right to react, deeming that their legislators should not put their own interests first. On Thursday, the tribunal that was set up after the constitutional revision to arbitrate wage disputes between the judiciary and the Greek state ruled to allow a doubling of judges’ compensation. In other words, the judiciary power decided to award itself higher wages. To be sure, our legislative and judicial representatives must earn enough money to ensure their integrity. Deprivation is a poor counselor because it steers people toward murky dealings and corruption. However, decent living standards for deputies and judges must be guaranteed by the third pillar of the democratic system – that is, the country’s executive. After all, it is the government that, within the framework of the economic policy announced in January each year by the national economy minister, sets the income for the vast majority of the population – workers, pensioners, teachers and engineers. So why should those who staff the two other branches of government determine their own income levels? The public frequently complains that all are less equal than the constitution decrees. Some appear more equal than others, taking a bigger slice of the cake for themselves. When 1.5 million people live on a minimum wage of 591 euros a month, and an equal number on the minimum pension of 427 euros, representatives of Greece’s legislative and judiciary branches cannot afford to be provocative – especially in a time of fiscal austerity.

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