In March 2021, Prime Minister Edi Rama boasted about the fact that during his governance, the salaries of government officials and parliamentarians had not increased by a single penny. Even a year later, Rama pledged that the salaries of high-ranking officials would not increase if he remained in power. However, contrary to his promises, in May, the parliament voted to increase the salaries of high-ranking state officials.
” …the salaries of government officials and parliamentarians have not increased since 2013, and they will not increase by a single penny until 2025,” emphasized Prime Minister Rama while presenting the Action Plan for salaries, taxes, and businesses for the years 2021-2025.
The same stance was reinforced by the Prime Minister one year later. In October 2022, during a stop in Elbasan as part of a tour of meetings with citizens across the country, Rama promised that the salaries of officials would not increase if he was in power.
“Since 2013, the salaries of ministers have never been increased, the salaries of deputies have never been increased, and the salary of the Prime Minister is not to be increased or discussed as long as I am here,” stated Rama.
‘Never say never!’
On May 25th of this year, the parliament approved with 97 votes in favour the increase in salaries for high-ranking public officials. Unlike two years ago, this time the Prime Minister felt proud of the salary increase for deputies, ministers, and other officials by over 50%.
“I am very proud of the salary increase, and I want to thank all the deputies from the bottom of my heart because it is the work of the deputies primarily throughout these years, because it is the result of reforms, it is the result of laws, it is the result of efforts. I want to thank all the members of the cabinet who have worked since the first day of 2013 until today because this is the result of tremendous efforts,” said Rama shortly before the vote on the legal changes that paved the way for the salary increase.
The only point on which Rama disagreed was the immediate increase in salaries. According to him, the salary increment for state officials should begin at the end of 2024.
“I want to tell you that when it comes to the point of salaries for deputies and ministers, I am against it entering into force immediately. It should come into effect at the same time as the entire package of salary increases, but I am just one person, along with Erion Braçe, and then whoever comes next, we will see,” stated Rama in parliament.
For this reason, the Prime Minister did not participate in the vote.
Why should politicians’ salaries be high?
Eduard Gjokutaj, a fiscal policy expert, states for Faktoje that the decision to increase the salaries of high-ranking public officials lacks economic or moral justification but is related to personal enrichment.
“In the case of increasing the salaries of high-ranking public and political officials, there should be justified reasons based on moral and political ethics. The salary increase should align with their performance in serving public interests, avoid conflicts of interest regarding the use of public resources, justify their public positions in relation to issues such as integrity, favouritism, cronyism, nepotism, and benefits derived from lobbying, and ensure transparency regarding their standard of living,” emphasizes Gjokutaj. He adds that a decision to increase salaries for oneself would only have political value if all the aspects were accompanied by moral and economic justifications.
For analyst Lutfi Dervishi, the salary increase for politicians deepens the inequality between the “servants of the people” and the people themselves.
“The doubling of salaries for ministers, deputies, the President, the Prime Minister, and the Speaker of Parliament was not done because this layer was suffering, but it was done to deepen the gap between the ‘servants of the people’ and the people. Doubling the salaries of the ‘servants of the people’ was not done as critical media portrays it as a competition to have the highest salary in the region. No. The doubling of salaries was done to deepen inequality,” writes Dervishi in a social media post.
Two years ago, the Prime Minister promised that if he was in power, the salaries of high-ranking state officials would not increase by a single penny. Time has shown that Rama did not keep his word. On the contrary, he made the highest historical increase in salaries for government officials. From not a single penny, politicians and other officials are now receiving nearly twice as much.