Not every branch of government is tightening the financial belt

President Laura Chinchilla Miranda may have tried to cap executive branch salaries, but the legislature and the Poder Judicial have not taken the hint.

Casa Presidencial released a copy of the president’s salary decree Tuesday. That is the document that generated protests and marches by public employees. It decrees a 5,000-colon, across-the-board raise for all workers in the executive branch.

Casa Presidencial was quick to point out Tuesday that the raise, which amounts to about $10 a month, does not include the president, vice presidents, minsters, vice ministers and heads of other institutions.

The decree, which was issued Jan. 17 when salary negotiations with public employees broke down, also noted that the executive branch has no control over the legislature or the judiciary.

Lawmakers appear to have given themselves a 150,000 colon-a month pay raise, effective May 1. That is just short of $300 more a month. Some lawmakers are not happy with this decision and may try to block the raise.
At the Poder Judicial, there also are raises greater than the small amount established by the president. In addition, magistrates have increased from eight to 12 months the cap on severance pay given to anyone who retires or leaves. That could mean an additional payoff of up to $100,000 for retirees and those who leave of their own accord.

Meanwhile, public employees have declared that they will have a general strike over what they consider to be the meager and insulting pay raise. The strike will be a week from today, according to the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos y Privados. Initiating the strike is the Asociación Nacional de Educadores, the teachers union. That means that schools will function on a limited basis while unionized teachers are protesting. The school year begins today.

The executive branch says that any money for pay raises will have to be borrowed because the country is broke. The public employee unions respond that there would be plenty of money if the government stemmed tax evasion and took the excess that is now in the hands of the various autonomous institutions. The unions claim that the amount would be three times what President Chinchilla seeks to bring in with her proposed new value-added tax. The president has estimated $500 million, if the tax proposal is passed.

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