Bulgaria’s government has approved amendments to regulations governing the pay of senior civil servants that will allow it to increase salaries after several years of no pay hikes because of austerity measures, Bulgarian daily Sega reported on January 28.
Pay rises for civil servants have been frozen since mid-2008, under the previous socialist-led government – when the man currently sitting in the prime minister’s chair, Plamen Oresharski, was finance minister – and had not been raised under the centre-right GERB administration, Sega said.
Despite lukewarm economic recovery, the government saw no reason to pursue continued austerity, the newspaper said. Approached for comment, the government’s press service did not offer one, the daily said.
In some cases, high-ranking political appointments in the state administration are in line to receive pay hikes of more than 1000 leva (about 500 euro) – as is the case of the prime minister’s chief of staff and his advisers. The changes in regulations also affect mayors, directors of state agencies and regional governors, but any pay hikes will have to come within existing budgetary constraints, the report said.
At the same time, the amended regulations contain no rules on bonuses given to top officials – a sensitive issue in a country with stagnating incomes, which caused several public rows during the GERB administration, when it emerged that some senior officials gave themselves annual bonuses of tens of thousands of leva.
Sega also reported that MPs too are set to raise their salaries, quoting Parliament Speaker Mihail Mikov saying that there was no intention to “freeze” MPs’ remuneration. Should Parliament approve a pay rise for its members, this would have a domino effect across the state administration, as the MPs’ base salary is used to determine the salaries of other senior officials in the executive and judiciary branches of government – including the president, prime minister, prosecutor-general and the heads of the high courts.
Sega’s report comes only a week after municipal councillors in Bulgaria’s largest cities – Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna – voted themselves large pay increases, arguing that existing salaries were too low and that they had to compensate for loss of income from their primary occupations.
(Bulgaria’s Council of Ministers building. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)