News that Kazakhstan’s parliamentarians have been given bumper pay rises of up to 50 percent of their salary is causing a stink.
The information leaked out to the media through deputies themselves. Bahytbek Smagul and Yekaterina Nikitinskaya told news outlets that the salary increases had taken effect as of March 1 and that MPs will now be earning around 600-700,000 tenge (around $2,000 to $2,200) per month.
While the amounts are hardly enormous, the outcry illustrates creeping frustration at stagnant improvement to the general economic wellbeing of the population.
The deputy speaker of the lower house of parliament, Vladimir Bozhko, said there was no grounds for clamor.
“We were the last among the civil servants to get a bump in our salary. This decision was taken four years ago. First the ministries [got the pay rise] and now, four years later, it is our turn,” he told reporters.
One MP, Nurlan Zhazylbekov, said he only gets around 500,000 tenge, which he said was not much when compared to the amount made by members of the government or some workers at state companies.
That only added fuel to the fire, since the divide between the average salaries of officials and those of the population at large is indeed not indifferent. According to official figures for 2016, average salaries in Kazakhstan stood at around 150,000 tenge ($480), although many online commentators argued that estimate too might be on the high side.
Why, online commentators, do MPs make five or six times as much as the average Kazakhstani? And the wage hike is particularly contentious in view of the persisting economic stagnation depressing salaries.
Artist Murat Dilmanov reflected widespread views most eloquently with a cartoon of a pig in a suit stuffing banknotes down its gullet.
Another caricaturist, Ibragim Kubekov, created a vignette an MP explaining to a pensioner that deputies are more important and useful to the country than mere retirees.
MPs are hardly the worst offenders when it comes to cheating the public in Kazakhstan, and in any case, the prevailing orthodoxy among anti-corruption policy wonks is that attractive salaries are a must to avoid temptation.
If they are picked out for such criticism, however, it suggests their level of approval may not be as high as would otherwise be hoped.