Spiegel Online | July 30 2012 | Thanks, Thomas
Marcello Bartolotta, a surgeon from the Sicilian town of Messina, has hit the jackpot. He has just been granted a seat in the regional parliament as a replacement for a parliamentarian from his party who recently died. The assembly will be dissolved in October ahead of regional elections. That, though, is hardly a problem for Bartoletta. After all, for the three or four remaining sessions he will attend until then, he will get some €40,000 ($49,000), in addition to expenses.
That, though, is if Sicily doesn’t go bankrupt first. And there is a chance it may.
Bartolotta’s 89 fellow lawmakers and their 400 assistants have already been told that their July salaries won’t be paid out punctually. The “Onorevoli,” the “Honorables,” as Italian parliamentarians call themselves, are up in arms at the announcement and the Palazzo Reale, where the assembly has its seat, echoed with shouts of “We want our money!” Yet the parliamentarians themselves have contributed significantly to Sicily’s financial misery.
The problem isn’t just that they receive a monthly net salary of €10,000 to €15,000 — more than members of the national assembly in Rome get — without working terribly hard. The assembly rarely convenes and the turnout is usually quite low. Even the fact that almost a third of the Honorables have a criminal record, are being sued or are under investigation is a cosmetic blemish at most. The true problem lies in what they have been doing: The political class in semi-autonomous Sicily has been doling out jobs and cash so lavishly over the years that the region is at risk of financial collapse.
Too Many Public Sector Jobs
The politicians have proven particularly adept at finding public service jobs for their friends. Today, some 144,000 Sicilians get their salary from the state, and one in eight of them is the head of something or other. Many administrative offices are full of people who have no idea what they’re supposed to be doing.
When it comes to creating jobs, Sicily’s politicians have shown impressive creativity. Some 27,000 people, for example protect the island’s meager woodland, far more than the Canadian province of British Columbia employs to tend to its endless forests.