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About-face in political office-holder statute bill 09 Mar�o 2015

A bill aimed at defining the new Political Officer-Holder Statute – which is intended to increase perks for the country’s political class both quantitatively and qualitatively – may end up not being approved in this March’s session of parliament, as the majority of the members of the governing PAICV’s National Political Commission, which debated the issue in its meeting this week, “advised the PAICV parliamentary group not to move forward with the initiative at this moment in time,” considering that the country’s current economic and social context demand contention on the part of all Cape Verdeans, beginning with their elected representatives. But this political about-face doesn’t end there. The leadership of opposition party MpD has also expressed trepidations regarding the proposal, although it has declined to comment the matter in order not to jeopardize negotiations between the two parties’ respective parliamentary groups.

About-face in political office-holder statute bill

The leaderships of the two largest political parties in parliament have yet to reach an understanding regarding the approval of the new Political Office-Holder Statutes. All indications are that no one wants to touch this particular hot potato – a bill that will not only qualitatively, but also quantitatively increase the perks of the members of the country’s political class just one year before general elections.

The matter has resulted in a difficult-to-manage political situation: most of the members of the National Assembly agree with what is proposed in the bill, but the leadership of both the PAICV and the MpD are reluctant to give the green light for the initiative’s approval. This is because the law, if passed, would increase public expenditures, just as the State is alleging a shortage of resources in order to justify its inability to satisfy the demands of a plethora of different professional classes – examples of this led to the recent strikes by public school teachers and Judiciary Police. As such, the country’s two main political parties prefer to move forward with caution in order to avoid being penalized by voters in next year’s elections.

With this in mind, the issue was discussed in this week’s meeting of the PAICV’s National Political Commission, the members of which advised against the passing of the bill. “The members of the National Political Commission were all of the opinion that the party’s parliamentary group in the National Assembly should be advised not to move forward with said bill at this time,” according to a high-level member of the party’s newly-elected leadership.

The members of the commission believe that the unfavorable economic and social context in Cape Verde – an economic slowdown accompanied by a relatively high unemployment rate – is at odds with measures aimed at increasing the financial burden of the state apparatus. “The current economic and social context in the country, a result of the world financial crisis, is at odds with the implementation of measures that go against the policy of containment of public spending,” says a member of the PAICV’s National Political Commission.

As such, the National Political Commission authorized party chairwoman Janira Hopffer Almada to discuss the matter with the PAICV’s parliamentary representatives, according to our source, stressing that the dossier has yet to be closed on the level of the National Political Commission. In other words, the issue is expected to be brought back up in one of the upcoming sessions of the same entity, at which time the party will make a final decision. On the side of the MpD, Cape Verde’s largest opposition party, things are also nebulous with regards to the proposal for the new statute. The MpD leadership has expressed reluctance regarding the implementation of the measure, which it believes to be a sensitive issue. “Given that this is a matter that is currently the object of an attempt at an understanding by the two parliamentary groups, we don’t believe this to be an opportune moment for the party to comment,” said the office of party chairman Ulisses Correia e Silva, when asked by A Semana about the MpD’s position on the bill.

Perks and dissension

The proposed new Statute of Political Office-Holders does not alter the wage structure for the political class, which has been in effect for nearly 20 years. Even so, it has divided both the PAICV and the MpD, as, in addition to the expansion of the list of public posts considered legally incompatible with holding public office, the bill has also been criticized for leading to an increase in political office-holders’ income by circuitous routes – in other words, by adding many perks that do not currently exist.

Among these are bonuses in the calculation methods used to determine years of service for retirement pensions. In addition to vehicles, licenses to carry firearms and travel expense bonuses, their communication allowance would be increased to 10% of their monthly wage, while their professional reintegration bonus would be equivalent to one months’ salary for each 6-month period in office.

The bill also intends to expand gratifications for the members of parliamentary group directorships and for chairs of specialized commissions, as well as for political groups in municipal assemblies. The bill would also instate a lifelong monthly payment for outgoing parliamentary speakers, among other perks.

“It would be scandalous for the state to move forward with this project, which will do nothing but make public spending skyrocket, at this point in time,” said an independent analyst approached by A Semana.

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