The Baghdad newspaper Al Alam reported in June 2010 that Iraq’s top politicians made almost 200 times more than the average Iraqi. President Jalal Talabani made $700,000 a year, his two vice presidents Adel Abdul Mahdi and Tariq Hashemi earned $600,000, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made $360,000, and his two deputies, $170,000 each. Earlier in the year the press claimed that Iraq’s 275 out-going parliamentarians were paid $129,800 a year each. Besides their salaries, all of Iraq’s politicians also get extensive stipends, loans, and large pensions. Iraq’s president for example gets a $45,000 allowance, $15,000 for transportation and $30,000 for hospitality a month. Parliament actually increased its benefits at the very end of 2009, giving themselves each a monthly budget of $25,500, an allowance for 30 staff members apiece, passports for ten years for their wives and children, and access to low interest loans. They also get a pension that is 80% of their salary. In comparison, the average Iraqi made $2,000 a year in 2009. 7 million Iraqis, around 23% of the population, live below the poverty level, and only earn $792 a year. 40% of the country lives in slum conditions. These factors put Iraq towards the bottom of the region in terms of living conditions; that is except for their leaders.
Iraq’s politicians have made themselves the new elite of the country. There are no laws that regulate the salaries of Iraq’s top politicians, and parliament gets to vote on their own pay and benefits. Almost all of the information is also kept secret from the public, and only comes out when something is leaked to the media. Given that environment it’s no wonder that Iraq’s political class lives in such luxury compared to the rest of the country. The lack of accountability and transparency allows them to give themselves a plush life out of the country’s sight, while many Iraqis struggle.
Agence France Presse, “Iraqi MP expenses scandal triggers religious outrage,” 11/6/09
Aswat al-Iraq, “Baghdad paper reveals salaries of top 10 state officials,” 6/1/10
Middle East North African Financial News, “Iraqi Leaders Most Highly Paid In The World,” MEMRI Blog, 6/4/10
Najm, Hayder, “the huge, hidden salaries of iraq’s parliamentarians,” Niqash, 4/22/10
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly Report to the United States Congress,” 4/30/10
UR News, “Iraqi President, Two Deputies Earn $2 Million Annually,” MEMRI Blog, 11/12/09
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