A new class of RADA Deputy – The poorOctober 31, 2014
With the construction of the new RADA more or less complete – baring the few contested single mandate seats that remain unresolved – the return of the good, the bad and the ugly to the legislature is complete.
A radically different picture to the historically more evenly times when the rich, connected/sponsored/owned and the outright nefarious took their places in what was first and foremost the most elite business club in Ukraine. It was the workplace of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
But there is now a new class of People’s Deputy – the poor Deputy. The deputy that is not rich, not sponsored/owned and thus far not known for nefarious activity either. A class of deputy that does not sit in prominent positions of large companies owned by the oligarchy, nor that own successful companies, or indeed have any other job or role outside politics having deliberately severed them prior to being elected.
With the majority of parties having hollowed out civil society, journalism and volunteer battalion leaders, placing them high enough on respective proportional vote party lists to insure many have now entered the RADA, it becomes the work place not only of the billionaires, multimillionaires, business leaders, puppet masters and assorted affluent criminals, but also that of those barely two kopeks to rub together.
Prior to the war in eastern Ukraine, an MPs salary was UAH 15,000 per month – or $1172 at today’s exchange rate. However, in order to appear to throw money back into the public purse, and give the impression of personal sacrifice to fund the war effort, that was reduced to UAH 6000 – $469 at today’s exchange rate – by removing the First Grade Civil Service Allowance. Not a problem to the old RADA that was after all devoid of poor people, and also quite capable of continuing to graft funds far in excess of the publicly shunned pittance from such populist acts.
The days when the populist hollow token gestures of sacrificing the MPs salary to benefit the public purse (whilst often raping that same public purse behind closed doors) can no longer apply if these new, seemingly ethically upright people are to financially survive and fulfill their constituency mandated roles with integrity. Whilst the billionaires and multimillionaires spend more in a week on restaurants – in some cases at a single sitting – than an MP currently officially earns in a month now all other official and legal “bolt-ons” have been stripped away, much of the new blood taken from the otherwise historically ostracised public will have to rely entirely on the MPs salary during their time in office.
Now, however, such populist gestures need be undone. Quite simply, UAH 6000/$469 does not even cover the rent of a below average apartment in Kyiv – and even if free accommodation were somehow provided, that wage still struggles to cover the cost of living, certainly ruling out any form of informal/social/out of the workplace meetings over lunch in a Kyiv restaurant, as few ethically and transparency orientated new RADA MPs will want to be seen to be “paid for” at such venues for fear of being beholding to – or perceived to be beholding to – those who foot the bill.
As for those new deputies from oblasts far from Kyiv, their salary would also have to cover travel costs to and from home as and when the legislative timetable allowed.
There is no need to labour the point being made here. A return to the UAH 15,000/$1172 monthly salaries would seem to be entirely necessary if the new, unsullied and ethically motivated MPs are to be allowed to stay that way, without being forced to compromise themselves.
If there is to be a genuine fight against corruption, then it surely makes sense to insure that the new untainted anti-corruption/transparency/rule of law MPs that have now entered the RADA across so many different party lists, have at least a fighting chance of remaining that way, would it not?
Ukraine can ill-afford to lose currently unstained People’s Deputies needlessly to corruption because they have to make ends meet by other means, any more than it can afford to lose them in pursuit of another job that actually covers the bills. Neither choice should be presented.
The days of empty populist nonsense have to end – nothing good ever came from populist nonsense. It is also time to close the most exclusive business club in Ukraine to business. Politics, legislation, debate and policy only within the RADA premises. Of course what goes on inside those top of the range cars in the RADA car park, or those expensive restaurants that the new, poor, RADA Deputy will not be able to afford even with a return to pre-war salaries, will probably remain entirely dubious business – unfortunately.
However, if a fish rots from the head, downward – it seems wise to do what is necessary to prevent that head rotting entirely.