Of all four Pacific Alliance countries, Colombia spends most on its congressional representatives, despite the South American country’s low wages.
According to a report published on Monday by economic newspaper La Republica, the state pays Colombia’s congressmen a total of nearly $2.1 million per month in salaries, almost double the total of Chile, whose whose congressmen have the highest individual salaries, but in total cost the state $1.2 million per month.
Granted, Colombia has the most congressmen at 266 (compared with Chile’s 120), but Colombia’s congressmen are among the top three in the Pacific Alliance in terms of the salaries they receive at $8,217 per month, excluding compensation for travel and other financial perks.
The salary alone is more than 40 times the country’s minimum wage of $205 (COP644,336), a disparity which has long caused frustration among Colombians whose Congress is infamous for its ineffectiveness and corruption.
“The legislative branch is the one to establish the parameters of these salaries. What is inconsistent is that this faculty grants the beneficiaries themselves the possibility to establish their own fees,” said Diego Cediel, political expert from the La Sabana University in Bogota.
In terms of congressmen per capita, Chilean lawmakers earn the most among the Pacific Alliance countries, with a liquid salary estimate of $10,129 per month, 30 times the country’s minimum wage.
According to analyst and political expert Jorge Ivan Cuervo, this strategy has been applied in order to “eliminate cases of corruption” among state officials. A strategy that he also thought should be adopted by Colombia.
According to figures from 2013, Peruvian congressmen received USD$9,403 per month, which was divided in to USD$4,757 in pay and USD$4,646 in representation expenses, a fee that has been much criticized by the public due to it doubling in recent years.
The congressmen reportedly feel otherwise however, as these representation fees to not cover travel and tickets.
Since 2015, Mexican congressmen are paid USD$6,999 a month, but when their benefits are included in the sum, they are paid USD$15,524. Unlike in Colombia, these wages have lowered by USD$591 for 128 senators and congressmen in a pragmatic response to the drop in the prices of oil.
Mexican senators do continue however, to receive social security and medical expenses among a a list of other costly benefits.
“Mexico is a country whose economy has been seen to be greatly affected by the prices of oil. It is logical that they adjustments and methods to tone down,” said Cuervo.
Colombia’s lawmakers quietly accepted their wage increase in spite of their country’s own dependence on commodities like oil and current congressional debates about far-stretching austerity measures that have so far failed to affect Congress itself.