A few new/old MPs in the PA of BH, shortly after being elected, have found a common stand over their “priority goals”. Although the government at the state level has not yet been established, Denis Becirovic (SDP BiH), Lazar Prodanovic (SNSD), Šemsudin Mehmedović and Amir Fazlic (both from SDA) have all already filed claims for compensation for living away from home.
Living in a country with half a million of unemployed, where the average wage is 826 KM, while themselves receiving an average of 5000 to 7000 KM of monthly income (out of which net monthly salary is over 4000 KM), one has to wonder how do these MPs justify such a requests. And those staggering figures don’t even represent the full amount they earn: meal allowances, bonuses, lump sum, compensation for living apart, transportation, visiting family, and taking part in the working groups of the BiH Parliament, are also available to them. Becirovic, Prodanovic, Mehmedović and Fazlic have, it seemPosition and the opposition unified in wasting money
s, forgotten that in their previous (numerous) mandates, especially in the aftermath of the February protests, they themselves were not only discussing, but also proposing reductions of public officials income, including that of MPs.
For example, during the meeting in House of Representatives on April 15th, Denis Becirovic initiated such amendments, stating: “Given the difficult socio-economic situation in BiH, I call the Presidency and the Council of Ministers to join the initiative of the reduction of salaries and other privileges. I think it would be beneficial for both: saving resources and creation of a scholarship fund for talented students in BiH”.
In 2012, Lazar Prodanovic advocated for savings at the state level, proposing the elimination of some of the state institutions, and merging the similar in order to decrese the headcount. Back then, Prodanovic also supported the reduction of the base for calculation of salaries of employees in BiH institutions by 4.5 percent, noting that it would be fair that everyone in the country shares the burden of the financial crisis. In addition, in April this year, SNSD proposed a bill which included the reduction of about 42% of salaries for members of the BiH Presidency, Council of Ministers and BiH Parliament.
SDA’s MPs were also active in these kinds of initiatives. On the April 15th session, the initiative of SDA to immediately reduce the salaries and privileges of all the PA members, was also on the agenda. SDA Club supported Niko Lozancic’s proposal for limitations in disposing of public funds in BiH, as well as Milorad Zivkovic’s initiative to lower the wages of BiH institutions’ employees. In 2012, Šemsudin Mehmedović started the legislative procedure to reduce wages and eliminate MPs benefits.
None of these initiatives were adopted (and the MPs clearly show no intent to implement them in their own conduct). The Law on Salaries and Allowances was adopted in 2008 and has been changed eight times since. The first amendment to the law, adopted in 2009, gave the state level MPs pay rates which enabled them to get the astronomical salaries they receive today. Other amendments rarely even dealt with reducing the income of MPs, with the exception of the amendment adopted in June 2012, when the base for calculating the salary in BiH institutions was reduced from the original 85%, to 50% of the average monthly net salary in BiH. But that certainly didn’t damage the income of PA BiH’s members, since the base for their wages is multiplied by 8,4. In case of chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of both Houses of the BiH PA, the rate is even higher – their wage is half of average salary in BiH, multiplied by 8,7. It is a known fact that such a rate doesn’t exist in any other country in the region and that rates of public officials’ salaries are among rare categories where BiH is in the lead over its immediate surroundings (and beyond). And all this despite the fact that all the ruling political parties managed to achieve an average of only 4% of its pre-election promises in the last two terms.
What makes the whole story even more interesting is the inconsistency of these actions with their party programs. Apart from mentioning the budget cuts in their own program, the SDA has also signed the „Program principles for legislative and executive power in BiH in 2014-2018 term“, pledging to make budget cuts a priority, starting with lowering expenses for salaries and other income for public servants. On the other hand, the SNSD noted in their pre-election platform that their representatives will work to make the spending on BiH level more rational, transparent and cost-savvy.
Most of the MPs who receive this compensation for living away from home reside in Sarajevo or Istočno Sarajevo. Average cost of living in the capitol is well beyond the amount of money MPs receive on monthly bases. The average monthly cost of basic needs for a family of four is estimated at 800 KM. Average rent for a studio apartment in the area of Center and Novo Sarajevo is around 400 KM, while utility bills amount to 200 KM. If all these costs are subtracted from an average MP salary of 4.000 KM, they are left with 2.600 KM to cover all other expenses. And all this without even taking into account all additional compensations they got, or privileges such as using official cars, reimbursement for phone bills, or using the parliamentary restaurant, where the prices are, in general, at least twice lower than the average.
However, the remaining 2.600 KM (over three times the salary earned by average BiH citizens who are lucky enough to even have a job) is clearly not enough for these representatives to cover visits to their families or other similar expenses, so they rushed to secure the usual compensations they have been receiving so far. For example, in 2013 Šemsudin Mehmedović and Amir Fazlić were receiving a monthly compensation for visiting their families of 646,38 and 638,82 KM respectively, while Lazar Prodanović made a total of 2.740 KM for living away from home during the year 2014.
This is a small reminder of how much additional income these MPs have received in the 2010-2014 term.
In conclusion – after all the talk about cutting down the administration costs; after all the „competition“ between the parties to present themselves as the ones who were most responsive to the demands of February protests; despite the fact that the MPs have at least 2.600 KM of pure profit on monthly base – SDA, SDP and SNSD representatives didn’t hesitate to ask for their additional 300 KM of compensation for living away from home, even though this is a peanut amount compared to their overall income. This is also an amount which will, without any real reason or justification, take additional 14.400 KM out of the state budget.