Out of touch


How much money does a Greek family need just to get by?

Any estimate would be risky as stubborn unemployment, falling wages and pensions, and ever-increasing taxes are tightening the noose around people’s necks, making living standards more and more unsustainable.

Another thing is that “just getting by” means different things to different people. Take the example of the country’s MPs, who get an allowance of up to 120,000 euros – between them – per year to spend on road tolls. Is that figure over the top or is it normal? That’s besides the point. It’s too much given the country’s finances.

The government said Friday that it plans to spend that money to pay for deputies’ toll fees for the last three months of 2015 and (in an advance payment) the first three months of next year. It breaks down to 10,000 euros per month.

In the past five years, since the onset of the financial crisis, several prime ministers and parliamentary speakers have called for a reduction in the outrageous perks enjoyed by the nation’s 300 MPs. Their calls however, which have come in the form of recommendations as well as ultimatums, have mostly fallen on deaf ears.

Even if deputies are often treated as an easy target, they are still a target. Just the fact that they represent the political system should make them more wary of displaying this sort of admirable solidarity in protecting their private interests. Sure, reducing the assembly to a poor state will not be enough to save the country’s economy alone. However, if deputies gave up some of their privileges they would send the people a signal that their elected representatives are not divorced from reality.

And they would thereby take a pragmatic step toward demonstrating their respect for “the sacrifices of the Greek people,” and toward showing that the oft-repeated phrase is not simply an exercise in poetry aimed at political benefit. The 2015 budget foresees 3.27 million euros being spent on MPs’ cars and 1.365 million on their travel expenses. It’s a parliament from another era, on every level.