Update: The 22.89 figure is apparently extremely erroneous. Minimum wage in Lebanon is $500. An MP’s salary is slightly less than $8000 when you include all benefits so in the best case scenario, the factor to multiply is 16 nothing more. Moreover, I was also informed that comparing the salary of a Lebanese MP with benefits to the basic salary of MPs (without benefits) only leads to a severely skewed representation.
14 is the number of laws our parliament passed in 2012, even less in 2011.
2 is the number of general sessions it holds per year.
128 is the number of its current members, set to become 134 soon (link).
23 is approximately how many times the salary of a Lebanese MP is above and beyond that of Lebanon’s minimum wage. That number is set to increase soon because “they need more money to do their jobs.” (Number is from this infographic, which might be false).
A chat with one of our MPs a while ago revealed to me that some members in our parliament are actually poor. Stop laughing, okay?
It turned out they need the extra money in order to be able to do their “job” in better ways. You know, not writing laws.
What are we paying our MPs for exactly and who is to blame for this? Not the MPs.
Being a Lebanese MP means you’re surrounded by a clout, a prestigious halo that needs to be maintained at all times. To that effect, there are certain standards of living to be kept. We pay for their convoys, their bodyguards, security measures (and maybe yachts, fancy apartments, etc.) But it’s not because the MPs demand it (I’m sure they don’t mind it), it’s because we expect it of them.
There’s a mentality among Lebanese people that if someone is not fancy enough, then that person is not cut out for certain jobs. I know this firsthand now that I’m entering the practical aspect of my future profession. The residents and interns at Lebanese hospitals are forced to wear ties and suits because – and I paraphrase – some patients immediately dismiss doctors not wearing ties and designer shirts because your dress code reflects on your medical knowledge that’s for sure.
Our country is also run on a clientalism system. The more money our MPs get, the more personal favors they can bestow upon their voters, the more votes they get and the longer they stay in office.
We perpetuate this every single time we ask one of those MPs to help us secure a job, get admitted to some university, secure a building license, lay down some asphalt on our houses’ driveways. As a way to compensate them, we go and drop their name in a voting box while wearing a custom-made shirt with his or her name emblazoned on it.
As long as we keep voting for people because of who they are and how they served us personally instead of what they actually accomplished while in office – not that we have a decent media source for such things to begin with – we don’t really get to complain about overblown MP salaries.
It’s a sad reality. But it’s not changing anytime soon.