Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Ideas for Venezuela: transparency and deputies

Last year Venezuelans found out what deputies were earning. Many of those deputies, like "comrade" Oscar Figuera (Partido Comunista de Venezuela) were getting a little bit over 10000 BsF per month. Back then that was around 3000 euros. Holiday months were not included, just "general expenses". The actual total was higher: they get about 10 months extra salary for "vacation time" and "end of the year" money. That is a quite some money in a poor country, specially considering income tax is way lower than in the US (I don't even mention Canada or Europe). More importantly: that is a lot compared to what primary school teachers in Venezuela earn. The ratio between salaries of deputies and primary school teachers is much higher than in very "capitalist countries" like Germany or Switzerland.

Anyway, we can discuss for a long time aboutn the exact amount Venezuelan deputies need, but the issue I want to bring forward here is the reaction of the president of the National Assembly, Cilia Flores, and what we can do. Ms Flores, one of the president's greatest cheerleaders, threatened regime-critical TV station Globovision with legal punishment for illegally acquiring the information about deputies' salaries. But it seems there was no other way to find out. Flores in her attack went into a lenghty description of the "hardships" deputies have to go through. In a video I show below you can listen to Flores saying, among other things, that "deputies earn relatively little and sometimes have to come to the capital by road" and not by plane, even if [travel by road] is dangerous". Wao! Do we have a civil war? Actually, most Venezuelans feel we do. Never mind many of the deputies actually live in areas that are closer by car than by plane (OK, private helicopters beat them all, but we are not talking about those here).

You can watch that video and read an accompanying article here. It is a governmental site. They showed a journalist of Globovision, but only because the Pcv deputy was explaining his position. Notice in that video that the communist deputy says his whole salary goes to the party, he gets a salary from the party. So? In any case: the party is not Venezuela. And he is one of the most kosher. I am sure the deputies of the PSUV use their salaries for other things.

If you visit the German Parliament, the Bundestag, in Berlin, you can actually get hold of a brochure with information indicating the salaries of the Bundesabgeordnete, the German MPs.

While in Venezuela it is so hard to get information about what deputies are earning at the Asamblea, in Germany there is now a whole discussion about what they are earning outside. This is necessary in Germany, but also in Venezuela.

I think the new deputies of the opposition should push for more transparency. I doubt they will want to do that thinking it would mean to shoot themselves in the foot.

In Der Spiegel you have a flash page where you can find out what deputy of what party has one or more "extra jobs". Even if you don't speak German, take a look at it, click here and there and see how the deputy seats are shown. You can actually learn much more: in what commission what deputies are working in, how old they are, etc.

We need that.

Ps. Please, don't forget to take part in the poll of this month about when el comandante willl cease being head of state in Venezuela!

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