Monday, January 15, 2007

Chavez wins an election and all I got was this lousy pay cut 

One interesting point that Chavez brought up in last weeks inaugurations was the notion that some high level government employees were overpaid and that a commission should be set up to study cutting their salaries should be cut. Chavez went so far as to say that salaries for some types of officials, such as himself, should be elminated given that they in effect get everything they need for free (housing, food, transportation, etc.).

A review of ministerial and National Assembly level positions by the newspaper Ultimas Noticias found that their salaries average between 5 and 7 million bolivares per month which is roughly $2,300 to $3,200 at the official exchange rate of 2,150 Bolivars to a dollar (if you used the black market rate of over 3,000 Bs to the dollars these salaries would be appreciably lower).

Some of the salaries were surprisingly high. For example, the National Assembly members get a base salary of 4.5 million bolivares (about $2,100 per month). That is not alot but they also get about 1 million/monthly for lodging (due to them being in Caracas away from where they may normally live) and they are now also beginning to get a special 2 million food allowance (this seems absurdly high to me). All told the compensation for the A.N. members is now about 7.5 million bolivares, or about $3,500 per month. While not high by U.S. or European standards this is certainly a high salary by Venezuelan standards.

Members of the Supreme Court do much better. They get 30 million Bs monthly or about $14,000 per month. That is quite a princely salary, even in places like the U.S.! By way of comparison we recently noted that the people who run PDVSA, the huge state oil company which is easly the most important institution in the country, have had their salaries cut to about $100,000 per year or $8,300 per month.

The rectors of the National Electoral Council (C.N.E.) get 25 to 27 million Bs monthly, or about $12,000 per month while the president of the C.N.E. earned between 30 and 32 million Bs per month or about the same $14,000 per month that the supreme court justices get. [as a side note when it turned out that former C.N.E. head Jorge Rodriguez had an Audi car it was alledged he must have been corrupt to afford it. Yet now we see he could have easily afforded it on his salary. This shows how bogus a lot of the claims of corruption turn out to be]

Clearly these are some VERY high salaries. Note they all also get the famous Cesta Ticket which are coupons worth a few hundred dollars per month to pay for food that most Venezuelans in the formal sector get - as if on their salaries they have a hard time paying for groceries!!

In any event, the sooner they cut these salaries to more reasonable levels the better. They might not like it but given that the person proposing the cuts, President Chavez, is the person who is highly popular here and without whom all these other people would likely be out on their butts, I doubt there will be any public complaining about this. Maybe they can have T-shirts made up reading "Chavez won an election and all I got was this lousy cut in pay"


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