Lining their pockets

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Lining their pockets

Lawmakers have withdrawn an attempt to raise their annual salaries after facing public outrage about their personal greed amid a deepening economic slowdown. Leading members of the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts said they were calling off the plan for a 3 percent hike in annual allowances for lawmakers, which is the monthly base salary for legislators.

Previously, the committee approved a proposal to raise annual allowances for lawmakers by 3 percent while reviewing a budget outline for the National Assembly Secretariat. The committee retracted the plan after a public outcry against the move

A 3 percent increase would boost a legislator’s monthly base salary from 6.46 million won ($5,600) to 6.65 million won - a 190,000 won increase. Regardless of the amount, it is shameful that legislators came up with the idea of giving themselves a hefty raise in the first place.

Annual allowances to lawmakers are what the people pay them for legislative activities. But the National Assembly has long been under fire for idling away the days and neglecting their legislative work. Hundreds of bills, including the urgently needed ratification of a free trade agreement with China and other economy-related laws aimed to stimulate the services sector and reform labor laws, have been gathering dust for months.

As public outrage grows, ordinary citizens are saying the National Assembly is useless and needs to be disbanded. And yet, the usual bickering by rival parties - the ruling Saenuri Party and opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) - broke into amity and cooperation with the idea of raising lawmakers’ salaries. Talk about cooperation across the aisle!

Although the raise was stopped at the last minute, the idea on its own is enough to enrage the public. The ruling and main opposition parties both pledged to cut their salaries before the presidential election in December 2012. The NPAD even vowed to cut their salaries by 30 percent, while the Saenuri Party agreed to go along with the move. The promise was never carried out. We are sick and tired of the two-faced attitude of our legislators. Instead of trying to raise their salaries, the National Assembly should implement a no work, no pay principle that the public ardently desires from the privileged group. That might be the only thing needed to get some bills passed. JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 27, Page 34
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