Iraqi legislators get $1,000 a minute sans work


London : Iraqi lawmakers have raked in more than $1,000 a minute for working just 20 minutes this year, enjoying a fee of $90,000 and a monthly salary of $22,500 and relaxing in a luxury hotel in Baghdad, a media report said Tuesday.

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Their lavish perks and salaries came to light as the 325 lawmakers prepared to hold a second parliamentary session since the election last March, the Daily Mail reported.

They get a salary of $22,500 and free night stays in Baghdad’s Rasheed Hotel as perks, regardless of whether parliament is in session. Besides, they also collect $600 per day while travelling inside or out of Iraq.

A mid-level government employee in Iraq makes around $600 a month and ordinary people lack basic services like water and electricity, the report said.

A politician’s basic monthly salary is $10,000 – just $4,500 short of that of rank-and-file members of the US Congress. In addition, an MP gets a $12,500 monthly allowance for housing and security arrangements, for a combined total of $22,500.

Once out of office, they get 80 percent of their salary for life, and for eight years they can also keep the diplomatic passports issued to them and their family members.

Since June, when the lawmakers first met for 20 minutes, Iraq’s second elected parliament since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime has failed to convene.

Sharp divisions among political blocs have prevented the formation of a new government, and not a single law has been debated. But the government decided to leave the session open which allowed MPs to pick up a $90,00 fee to cover their expenses for the next four years.

In a mosque sermon, an aide to Iraq’s top Shiite cleric urged parliament to lower their salaries when they next meet.

“Instead of working hard and doing a good job, they are enjoying a paid vacation,” said Jalal Mohammed, a retired clerk for the administrative council in the southern city of Basra.

“I think the parliament members should only be paid if they do something useful for their country.”

Lawmakers justify high salaries and benefits saying they risk their lives participating in the political process.

“We are exposed to violent incidents in our houses, on the streets, and even in parliament,” Sheik Haidar al-Jorani, a Basra lawmaker with the prime minister’s State of Law party, was quoted as saying.