Buenos Aires, Feb 14 (IANS/EFE) Argentine lawmakers’ decision to give themselves a 100 percent raise in the face of spending cuts and the executive branch’s pleas for restraint sparked a fierce controversy Monday.
Congressional spokespeople told EFE that legislators’ pay is increasing from 15,000-17,000 pesos ($3,440-$3,899) a month to 30,000-35,000 pesos ($6,880-$8,000).
Aside from their salaries, lawmakers receive other benefits including air tickets exchangeable for cash if not used plus compensation for those who must move more than 100 km from their homes to Buenos Aires.
The lower house also approved a one-time appropriation of 5,000 pesos ($1,147) per member for organizational expenses, La Nacion newspaper said.
The increases were granted despite the outcries lawmakers heard from social organizations and their leaders over the paltry number of congressional sessions held last year, with 15 in the Senate and 10 in the lower house, the fewest in any year since the return of democracy in 1983.
“This is monstrous. The decision disregards what the country is going through,” lawmaker and leader of the Proyecto Sur party, Fernando Solanas, said Monday on the radio.
For his part, the head of the judiciary employees’ union, Julio Piumato, asked ironically on Twitter whether the increase should be taken as a “reference” for his organization’s wage negotiations.
“I think it’s great that they get a raise, but if there’s money for them there’s money for everyone. The people’s representatives should be an example for the people they represent,” Piumato, a leader of the dominant CGT labor federation, said.
The pay hike comes amid government spending cuts on public services and on subsidies to companies in different sectors, a response to early 2012 forecasts of a slowdown in economic growth and a need to control inflation.