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Chase to the Cut

IN the midst of this time of economic scarcity, which profession is the safest and its practitioners the most comfortable financially? Possibly one of the best would have to be that of politician, including in this the members of local legislative councils (DPRDs). Although the economy is still struggling, the salaries and allowances of politicians in local governments continue to be sky high. Why? Because they are free to set their own budgets.

At first glance, their monthly salaries certainly appear small, at around Rp5 million. But just listen to M. Zen Gomo, a National Mandate Party (PAN) member in the West Sumatra DPRD. He admits to taking home twice that amount. "I can get Rp11.5 million a month," says Zen.

Where does it come from? From all kinds of allowances--such as those for commissions and factions, petrol money, and insurance premiums. From the Rp2.4 million insurance budgeted for him every month, for instance, a member of the West Sumatra DPRD will get Rp100 million at the end of his term of service. That is equivalent to a laborer's wages in West Sumatra (where the minimum wage is Rp435,000 a month), if the man worked continuously for 20 years.

Deputy Speaker of West Sumatra DPRD, Titi Nazif Lubuk, says this insurance allowance is actually just the same as the termination payment given to its members in the New Order days. "We changed into insurance so it would serve a double function, acting as savings, and should something happen, such as an accident it could be cashed in, as with insurance," Titi explained.

The income of the members of the Surabaya City local legislature is much greater. Officially, from January 23 this year, the income of its speaker is Rp39 million a month. This is made up of basic salary of Rp19 million and allowances of Rp20 million. In turn, the deputy speaker pulls in Rp29 million a month, while regular members are salaried at Rp12 million. These large salaries are boosted by a number of allowances, such as for transportation, for clothing of office, and for the cost of human resources improvement.

But, claims Surabaya DPRD deputy speaker, Pudji Astuti, not all these can be disbursed without first providing some accountability. The allowance for improvement of human resources (education money), for instance, can only be paid out if the one involved is studying again or adding to his or her skills. So, "This money is not paid out in cash in advance," Pudji stressed to Sunudyantoro from TEMPO.

Why then are salaries of members of local legislatures different? It is because the local annual budgets are different for each jurisdiction, according to local source revenue and funds from the central government that each receives.

In general, local governments still follow Government Regulation No. 110/2000 on the Financial Standing of DPRDs as their reference. This regulates everything in quite some detail. For instance, there is an item that limits allowances to 1 percent of local source revenue. But, claim Dedi Haryadi and Riyan Sumindar in their book Local Government Expenditures, a Study Document on the Expenditure Budget of Bandung City DPRD 2002, violations of this often occur. How? By creating as many kinds of allowances as possible, beginning with one for end of service, another for commissions, through to an honor allowance.

After the Supreme Court overturned Government Regulation No. 110/2000 in September last year DPRD members, too, joined in the celebrations. By just basing their actions on Law No. 22/1999 on Local Government, they had then become increasingly freer to jack up their salaries and allowances.

Wicaksono, Abdul Manan, Febrianti (Padang)

TEMPO, FEBRUARY 24, 2003-024/P. 56 Heading Law

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