Colombia’s congress agrees to drastic salary reduction

(De Miguel Olaya - originally posted to Flickr as Panorama, CC BY-SA 2.0, Enlace)

Colombia’s political parties agree to drastically reduce the salaries of congressmen in an attempt to appease anti-corruption advocates.

Following a failed anti-corruption referendum where the public was asked to vote on the issue, the country’s congress decided to work on lowering politicians’ salaries, which currently stand at over $10,000 per month – 40 times the minimum wage.

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The country’s Interior Minister, Nancy Patricia Gutierrez, said on Monday that a congressman’s salary would slowly be reduced to 25 times the minimum wage, which is little over $250 per month.

Colombian citizens have long been frustrated at the absurd salaries of their country’s congressmen, who earn more than lawmakers in France, Switzerland and the UK – and are also entitled to generous benefits.

But an anti-corruption referendum in August, which gave citizens the chance to slash congressmen’s earnings, fell flat as not enough people turned out to vote.

Colombians were asked to vote on seven proposals, which also included forcing politicians to release their tax returns, as well as allowing the illegitimate income of lawmakers to be seized and made public.

Though despite the failed vote, the country’s government said they would still work on fighting for the initiatives proposed in the referendum, with the country’s new president declaring that anti-corruption was top of his agenda.

Monday’s decision, which is expected to save over COP300,000 million in the next 10 years, will be followed with more discussions on how to eradicate corruption in the country’s most corrupt institution.

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The salaries of congressmen have shot up disproportionately over the past 27 years – going from just 14 times the minimum wage to 40 times, reported El Tiempo.

But some of the country’s top politicians, including ex-president Alvaro Uribe, the leader of congress’s dominant party, the Democratic Center, has always defended the earnings of country’s politicians.

The country’s finance minister went even further declaring that he minimum wage was “ridiculously high.”

Colombia’s congress has long been seen as chronically corrupt institution, with scores of its lawmakers facing criminal accusations.

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