Let them eat cake…

Economy on the slide. House prices falling. Talk of having to raise taxes to cover essential day to day costs of running the government. Rumblings of voluntary redundancies in the Health Services, grumblings of the need to ensure more productivity in public services before further benchmarking payments are made… and all this after an election season where we were assured it was only a matter of time before we were all walking on water and had free flying cars (well not quite, but you get the picture).

But our noble Taoiseach (already one of the highest paid elected officials in Europe) is today awaiting the announcement of a pay rise to bring his €260,000 a year salary up to something that a fella can live on in today’s Ireland.

Update: RTE now have the figures… The Taoiseach’s new salary is €310,000, a 14% pay rise.

To put it another way, the CEO of a large corporation seemingly lied to shareholders at an AGM (the election) about the performance of the business, failing to disclose adequately (if at all) the level of material risk associated with future performance of the enterprise, or recognise the levels of chronic mismanagement within his executive team and now he is to be rewarded with a payrise (which also means a raise in his already generous pension as Taoiseach).

George W. Bush has a total ‘package’ including expenses and allowances of around $470,000. At today’s exchange rate that comes to just over €330,000. Will Bertie get more than him in ‘raw’ cash? The salary component of GW’s package comes to just over €280,000 at today’s exchange rates – only €20,000 more than Bertie.

Pretty soon POTUS will want a raise as well, just to keep up with el Berto.

Irish Government ministers and other TDs (as well as judges) will also get a bump in the bank account as a result of this review.

If the Taoiseach is serious about leading the country through a period of solemn fiscal tightening before his party claim saviour status in the next election then he should start with himself. Reject the payrise… Send a signal to his ministerial colleagues that it is entirely their own choice if they want to take the pay rise, if they do they’ll be on their own in the PR stakes.

With one simple gesture he could rout the opposition and reclaim his ‘man-o-the-people’ image before buggering off to a content retirement.

Yeah… right… like that will happen.

Update: Quelle surprise. A pay rise of 14% for the Taoiseach, 15.5% for the Tanaiste (who is also our minister for Finance) and a raft of further increases for other roles and we find ourselves in a position where the management of the country cannot now really argue for ‘belt-tightening’ or wage restraint within social partnership, at least not without falling over giggling.

Let them eat cake indeed.