I have been out of town for a few days doing a bit of touring around which has been off the agenda for a while. It is a different world out there, and the capital is a long way away.
While away, one of my group casually mentioned that the parliament had passed legislation giving parliamentarians quite extraordinary pension allowances. I had never seen it, so I have since asked a local just when did this happen (3 weeks ago) and how come I had not come across it. Was it on the radio ? No. Was it on the TV ? No. Was it is the Dili papers ? Yes, but on page 5 amongst other government news. It didn’t seem to raise any great concern.
So I look it up on the internet when I got back here. “Lao Hamutuk” seems to be taking up the case and reports that the parliamentarian’s pension bill includes :
A pension for life at 100% of final salary with money for healthcare (both in TL and overseas) and
A government house, a government car with fuel, a private secretary, an adviser, two telephones, internet access and a security person.
Tax exemption on car imports and building material for private use (for up to two houses)
A diplomatic passport and a VIP travel treatment (even when not on an official mission)
Two times a year, a paid intercontinental trip with two other people, and more…
Outside of Dili, the generally lower living standards are fairly obvious so it was fairly hard for me to rationalise this smorgasbord of benefits with the living conditions of many Timorese. To be honest, this sort of stuff is why politics turns me off and why I struggle to decide who to talk to – a politician or a car salesman.
The interesting side event to this is that the President has vetoed the bill but if it is handed back a second time, he must either pass it or resign. (This was also new to me.) Then it hits you. The Timorese President has almost no power so comparing the position to George Dubya is misleading. I am no expert in politics or the (or any) constitution but the President’s power seems more like a Queen/Governor-General in the Commonwealth system.
It almost makes me think that this bill was out to test the President’s mettle.