[Marxism] Morales takes pay cut in gesture to prioritize education

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sun Jan 29 20:38:54 MST 2006




This move is, of course, symbolic in the sense that it states that
education is now a higher priority for government than the living
standards of the officials.  Such moves increase popular confidence and
thus help spur popular mobilization.  Morales will now make around one
and half times as much as I do.  As I scrape along, I find this
comforting.
Fred Feldman
 
 
 
 
Posted 1/28/2006 1:28 AM
 
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Bolivian president slashes salary for public schools 
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) - President Evo Morales cut his salary by more than
half and declared no Cabinet minister can collect a higher wage than his
own, with the savings to be used to hire more public school teachers. 
  <http://images.usatoday.com/_common/_images/clear.gif> 	
 Bolivia's new President Evo Morales jokes with some of his new
ministers during the swearing in ceremony of his cabinet.
<http://images.usatoday.com/news/_photos/2006/01/28/n-evo.jpg>
<http://images.usatoday.com/_common/_images/clear.gif> 	Bolivia's new
President Evo Morales jokes with some of his new ministers during the
swearing in ceremony of his cabinet.
<http://images.usatoday.com/_common/_images/clear.gif> 	
By Victor Caivano, AP	

The move followed a campaign pledge to tackle political corruption and
restore honesty to the government of South America's poorest country.
But critics called it a propaganda ploy that will do little to help the
needy. 

Five days into his leftist government, Morales announced Thursday his
salary would be $1,875 a month - a 57% cut from the previous president's
earnings - and that his Cabinet would also have their salaries capped at
that figure. 

"I ask for (the ministers') understanding and efforts to try to meet
this demand, not for Evo but for the people," Morales said. 

He said the savings would be used to hire more teachers, adding: "We
need 6,000 new teachers and there is only money for 2,200." 

Morales' predecessor earned $4,362 a month. The yearly savings of more
than $31,340 on the president's income - including expenses and
Christmas bonuses - is about enough in Bolivia to rent an upper-middle
class apartment, buy one new Ford Focus or pay the annual salaries of 10
veteran teachers. 

The average Bolivian teacher with 10 years of accumulated service earns
about $250 a month. 

Street protests by teachers, miners, and Indians ousted two of Morales'
predecessors since 2003, uprisings fueled by indignation against wealthy
elites. 

In December, voters elected Morales by a landslide after he promised to
tackle corruption and poverty. He was inaugurated Sunday. 

Restaurant waiter Jose Maria Oropeza applauded the cuts. "It's a good
sign that he's putting his salary on the line so that the country can
begin improving, and not only his salary, but all the Cabinet
ministers," Oropeza said Friday. 

But he said daunting problems remain. 

"The poverty rate here is high and no one can deny that. But with this
government, I hope that things will start improving," he said. 

Critics said the salary cuts were a superficial gesture that would not
begin to address Bolivia's deep-seated poverty. 

Ruben Costas, governor of Santa Cruz in the country's eastern business
hub, called the cuts "demagoguery," saying good leadership and social
programs matter more than the president's paycheck. 

In addition, some officials complained they might not be able to
maintain homes in far-flung districts while working in La Paz. 

Since taking office as Bolivia's first Indian president, Morales has
also overhauled the armed forces and announced an investigation into a
decision last October to let the United States destroy 28 of Bolivia's
Chinese shoulder-launched missiles. 

"Morales is acutely aware of the symbols, both in terms of the
indigenous identity of the country and by setting the standard for
cutting salaries," said Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue
in Washington. 

"But now the test is, 'Can he follow through?' ... Ultimately, he will
face real decisions," Shifter added. 

Other leaders have introduced salary cuts. In January 2002, Ecuador's
President Lucio Gutierrez took a 20% voluntary pay cut to $5,120
monthly. A year earlier, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo announced
he would cut his pay to $12,000 a month after critics denounced a plan
for an $18,000 monthly salary. Protests were so loud he had to cut it
again to $8,400. 

Riordan Roett, professor of Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins
University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington,
said Morales' media-savvy steps showed he was a "much more assertive
chief executive" than many thought. 

He noted that Morales began by naming a Cabinet heavy with Indians,
social leaders and women, then shook up the military, promoting officers
who will be loyal to the new leader. 

"These two events, coming with the salary issue ... (are) decisions that
play out very well in the streets with the poor," Roett said. 

But bigger issues are yet to come, including implementation of Morales'
promise to nationalize Bolivia's natural gas reserves. 

"He has done things in the short term that will bolster his support, by
moving on salary cuts," Roett said. "The next thing, now will be the
energy issue and that's the critical question ... and an important sign
of how radical he will be." 

  _____  

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 



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