A lot has been said recently in the Greek media about the salary, allowances and benefits of members of the Greek parliament. MPs insist that their pay is not all that high, that they incur considerable expenses for the cost of running their office, and that cutting back on their benefits will cause “parliamentarian poverty.” Yet no one really knows how much Greek MPs are earning. The deputy speaker of parliament, Gr. Niotis, rejected on 23 September a proposal by far-right leader G. Karatzaferis to send a letter to the media with details of MPs’ pay, allowances and benefits. So I decided to research the relevant legislation to figure it out for myself. Here is the result of my research, with links to the relevant law/decree/decision for each item.
A. Basic salary
- Under article 63 of the Greek Constitution, MPs are entitled to a salary and allowances covered by the state to exercise their mandate. The amount is determined by a decision of the plenary session of parliament.
- The monthly salary of MPs is equal to the pay of the best-paid civil servant (ie the president of the Supreme Court), meaning the total of his basic salary and allowances (law 3732/1957). This amounts to €8,594.40 before tax per month (Guidelines for the implementation of income policy for the fiscal year 2010, reference number 2/14924/0022 – 01/04/2010, article 2 §4, not published in the Government Gazette but available from the Ministry of Finance/General Accounting Office).
- Individual MPs may be eligible for further allowances (eg dependents, disability etc) which I do not take in consideration here.
- Up to 20% of the basic salary is transferred to the MP’s political party (law 3016/2002 article 36 §1).
- 1% is withheld for health insurance (Vote Ζ/1975 article 1 §1b).
- 6.67% is withheld for pension contributions (law 2084/1992 article 22 §1).
- 25% of the basic salary after the above deductions are taken into account is exempt from tax on the grounds that it is used for “costs incurred by MPs for practicing their office” (law 3016/2002 art 36 § 2)
- Since April 2009, 5% of salary is withheld & transferred to National Social Cohesion Fund under decision 3603/2728/2009 which has been extended on a yearly basis. The Fund was abolished by law 3895/2010 article 1 §1c and contributions transferred to the Ministry of Finance.
- Income tax is calculated under law 3986/2011 article 27 §1.
- Furthermore, MPs pay an emergency tax of 5% of net income (excluding bonuses) under the same law 3986/2011 article 29 §3e.
A calculation based on the above amounts results in a minimum monthly take-home pay of €4,662.25 for MPs’ basic salary alone.
B. Committee participation allowance
- MPs further receive an allowance for participating in parliamentary committee meetings (Parliament regulations as they currently stand, article 37 § 2).
- The allowance currently stands at €150 per MP per meeting. Decision 6632/4382/2011 reduced it from €200 to €150 starting 15 July 2011.
- There were 34 active committees and subcommittees in parliament from 04/10/2010 to 30/09/2011 that held a total of 740 meetings with a total of 761 members. The total cost to the taxpayer was €4,725,600. Each MP earned on average €15,752 from participating in committees over a one-year period.
A calculation based on the amounts stated for basic salary and committee allowances results in an average take-home pay of €5,312.48
C. Christmas, Easter, holiday bonuses
- The 1 month salary Christmas bonus and the two half-month salary bonuses for Easter and holidays were cancelled on 14/05/2010 by decision 6708/4614/2010. MPs are now eligible for bonuses of €500 for Christmas, €250 for Easter & €250 for holiday under law 3845/2010 article 3 §6. MPs never received 16 months salary per year (16 months only ever applied to employees of the parliament).
A calculation based on the amounts stated above for basic salary, committee allowances and bonuses results in an average take-home pay of €5,364.15
D. Parliamentary pension
- MPs are eligible for parliamentary pension after serving for 8 years in parliament (4 if they have a disability or chronic illness) under law 3670/2008 article 3 § 1.
E. Office costs
- Decision 5727/4313/2002 and Ministerial decree 2234/2002 deal with the practicalities of office space for MPs. Under article 2, office space for MPs is provided by the parliament. Under article 3, offices are fully furnished and equipped, and consumables (stationeries, printer ink etc.) are provided by the parliament. Under article 4, the cost of purchasing equipment is covered by the parliament budget. Under article 5, offices are provided equipped and renovated and should be returned in same condition except for normal wear & tear.
- Decision 13986/2009 defines necessary equipment for an MP’s office as: 1 desktop computer, 1 laptop, 1 printer, 1 multifunction printer/scanner/photocopier, relevant software, 1 telephone exchange, 1 satellite receiver. MPs procure their equipment from the provider of their choice. The individual budget allocation is €5,500 for newly elected MPs, €2,500 for MPs re-elected for the first time and €3,500 for MPs re-elected for the second time or more. The total cost to the taxpayer is well above €1M. Furthermore, since the equipment is the private property of the MP, the same amounts are disbursed after each general election.
- Each MP gets 4 secretaries and 1 advisor or 3 secretaries and 2 advisors (law 3649/2008 article 23). That’s not to mention the number of people working in Ministers’ & Deputy Ministers’ offices.
- MPs receive an allowance to meet the expenses of their office, defined as a percentage of their monthly pay. Decision 6709/4615/2010 establishes it at 16.2% for greater Athens MPs and 20.24% for MPs from the rest of the country. This means an extra €778 per month for greater Athens MPs and €972 per month for other MPs.
- The 25% tax exemption on basic salary (cf. point A7) is also justified on the grounds that the amount is intended to cover office costs.
- There is no requirement in the law whatsoever to justify that this amount is spent on parliamentary business.
- The prime minister, deputy prime ministers, ministers, deputy ministers, speaker of parliament and leader of the main opposition party further receive 20-40% of salary for representation costs (law 1249/1982 article 55). The amount was cut by 12% (law 3833/2010 article 1 §1) and further cut by 8% (law 3845/2010 article 1 §1). After the latest cuts, this means between €778 and €1,556 per person per month on top of their regular pay.
F. Running costs
Under article 63 §2 of the Constitution, MPs enjoy transportation, postal service and telephone communications free of charge within limits determined by the plenary session of parliament. In practical terms this means that the taxpayers pays for:
- Up to 1,000 letters sent by surface mail every month (decision 196/1990) equally distributed between the three lighter categories of simple first priority domestic mail service (decision 3287/2001). This means a yearly budget of €2,868,000.
- The use of 4 telephone land lines, two of which are provided by the state (decision 2449/1991, article 1 §2) and 2 which are installed at MP’s cost (ministerial decree 2234/2002 article 4 §2). At least 1 land line should be in greater Athens, the others in any location of the MP’s choice (decision 2712/1991). Decision 15733/11148/2009 sets the yearly budget per MP for 2009 at €11,000 (reducing it from €12,000), meaning a total cost to the taxpayer of €3,300,300 per year.
- The free phone benefit was extended to mobile phones by decision 1120/900/2005. Decision 1818/1466/2005 specifies that this is for one mobile phone line and does not cover the cost of the handset. Decision 4377/2008 defines the maximum monthly cost covered by parliament for each MP at €200, meaning a total cost to the taxpayer of € 720,000 per year.
- Two comments here:
- There is no requirement whatsoever for MPs to justify that their mail or phone calls are related to parliamentary business.
- In principle any costs incurred in excess of the above stated amounts are at the expense of the MP. However, the parliament can decide to cover those costs retroactively as well, e.g. decision 2347/2007.
G. Travel, transportation and residence
- MPs enjoy free transportation on national train network, public inter-city buses and passenger boats under the Greek flag regardless of destination and of official/private character of the trip (Vote Ζ/1975 article 2 §2) and 52 return air tickets to their constituency for MPs from the provinces (Vote Ζ/1975 article 2 §3)
- The free transportation above is in first class, as are all trips for MPs themselves and their spouses when on official travel in Greece and abroad (law 2685/1999 article 4 § 1). Under the same law article 1 §2a, the taxpayer covers the cost of tickets, monthly travel pass or cost of using private transportation (owned or rented), overnight stay costs and per diem for MPs on official travel within Greece or abroad.
- No maximum amount for overnight costs is specified for the prime minister, his deputies, government ministers, deputy ministers and MPs for hotels within Greece in law 2685/1999 article 8 § 3a. All MPs get to stay in 5-star hotels when abroad under article 22 §2a.
- The MPs’ per diem when on official travel abroad is €150 (Decision 6632/4382/2011).
- Under decision 9537/7713/2004, MPs from the provinces can choose to stay in hotels while in Athens at the expense of the taxpayer or to receive an allowance of €1,000 per month to rent an apartment either in Athens or in their constituency (provided that they or their spouse do not own a residence in greater Athens or within less than 25km of the rented residence or hotel in their constituency per decision 9671/7802/2004).
- Under decision 2045/941/2003, MPs may rent a vehicle for 36 months at the expense of the taxpayer. The engine size should be 1600-2000cc. The MP is responsible for service, repairs, changing tires, insurance, fuel etc (decision 4286/2348/2003 §c). The maximum monthly rent is €1,500 per MP (decision 22-//2008 §c). Under decision 5475/2008, there is no upper limit on engine size if the vehicle is hybrid (§1b) but renting two-door vehicles and generally jeep, SUV & cabriolet-type vehicles is forbidden (§2a). Decision 142//2010 §a authorises MPs to replace rented vehicles by vehicles with engines in the 1000-1600cc range. The recent announcement by the speaker of the parliament that smaller vehicles would become compulsory has not even been voted upon yet. At €1500/MP/month, the total cost to the taxpayer is €5,400,000 per year.
- MPs also receive a further transportation allowance ranging from €364 to €810 per month, depending on their constituency. Even those from Athens receive the minimum amount. The latest update of amounts was stated in decision 6700/2010. The total cost to the taxpayer is in excess of €2,000,000 per year.
H. Other goodies
- Ministerial decree 4569/2516/2003 establishes a gym inside parliament. Article 6 says costs are covered by users’ contribution and the parliament budget. It is open from 7am to 9pm on weekdays and 9am-5pm on Saturdays. It employs 29 staff (per ministerial decree 4653/2563/2003 article 1).
- Decision 4437/2000 establishes a day-care centre for MPs’ children whose cost is entirely covered by parliament (article 3) and which employs 20 people (article 4 §2)
- MPs are not listed among those eligible for free visits to archaelogical sites and museums in ministerial decree 28856/1996 but several sites, such as the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum, do it anyway.