Monday, August 21, 2006

Who are the richest politicians in Poland?

A relevant question – it’s they, after all, who are the least bribable.

Wprost magazine has a list of the top 50 best-off politicos in parliament. You might be surprised by which party many of them come from.

The richest politician, by a long way, is Janusz Palikot (photo - nice hair!), a member of the opposition, free market orientated Civic Platform (PO). He’s worth about 333 million zlotys – around 100 million dollars. He made his first million in the early 1990’s from producing wooden pallets for transporting alcohol (well, someone had to).

In fact, his party, Civic Platform, has the greatest number with 18 members of parliament in Wprost's top 50. No surprise really, as PO is the most business friendly party in Polish politics. Entrepreneurs and the growing and aspiring middle class make up its electoral base.

But guess which party has the second richest MPs in the top 50? It’s the rural proletarian, ex-Stalinist, farmers based trade union, Self defense (Samoobrona)!

Led by deputy Prime Minister Andzej Lepper, Samoobrona has 9 MPs in the top 50. There’s money in muck, as they used to say in Britain.

In fact the second richest politician in Poland is Samoobrona member Jozef Pilarz, worth a cool 23 million pln. He makes his money from farming and land ownership. So though its base support is from among the poorer members of Polish society, Self defense voters are represented by some of the richest.

Wprost calculates that the richest member of the ruling Law and Justice party is Radek Sikorski (12 million). He’s a graduate from Oxford University, who worked as a journalist for various British media in the Afghan war against the Soviets after which he went to the US. He’s married to American journalist and fellow member of the neo-con American Enterprise Institute, Anne Applebaum.

Wprost also lists the world’s highest paid politicians and heads of state.

Japan’s PM Junichiro Koizumi comes out on top, paid around 30,000 dollars a month. Next up is, amazingly, Irelands Mary McAleese, who gets a bit more than George Bush, at just under 30,000 dollars.

President of Poland, Lech Kaczynski only receives a poor 19,000 zlotys a month ( 6,500 dollars). But even that’s much better than the impoverished Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Siergiej Staniszew, who takes home to his wife as little as 1,200 dollars a month.

Strange then, is it not, that Bulgaria is the 54th least corrupt country in Europe, according to Transparency International, and Poland is 70th!

Maybe we should be paying Polish politicians even less?


Chris Borowski said...

Man, I wish your first sentence were true, because that would mean that Samoobrona is the second least bribable political party out there ;) I'm just not sure there's much of a link. The rich take too, but probably their price tag is higher. Ulimately I think the connection is not so clear. There are plenty of poor politicians -- ok, maybe there are some -- who do not take bribes and hence remain poor.

Lucia Maria said...

Ha! New Zealand is second-equal, that's a load of crock. One of our latest scandals is the ruling Labour party, having used so much taxpayer's money (illegally) to get themselves re-elected last year, are now trying to change the rules so that all their previous illegal spending becomes legal. Obviously, that's not defined as corrupt for personal gain as such, but it's corrupt for party gain.

beatroot said...

Chris, you are right of course. The wages of politicians are not directly linked to corruptness (culture etc comes into it). But the post does have the Bulgarian twist in its tail.

But it certainly is believed that wage levels affect corruption. That is why in the UK the police are paid so well. It’s also why in Poland, doctors are tempted by extra, illegal payments so the patient can skip up the waiting list. This is a current insidious enduring phenomenon here. Doctors get 70% of the national wage.

The criteria for ‘corruption’ in the TI index is based on survivors of mainly businesspeople when trading with particular countries. If they keep being asked for a bung by companies or governments etc then this adds up to the weight they are given as corrupt. In recent years Poland has been going in the wrong direction on this index.

Gustav said...

But the Kaczynskis biggest selling point is their hate of corruption - hence the commissions galore set up to root them out (including the Central Anti-corruption Bureau). Since we can all agree that Poland has a corruption problem, oughtn't we be supporting the government on this front at least?

Anonymous said...

I think fighting corruption within government is worthwhile of the Kaczynski brothers, I just wish they were more in sync with the rest of western Europe. I never would have imagined the Europeans could be so divided on every issue. The brothers are too old-fashioned and should know its best to get along with their neighbors.


Gustav said...

I think that the Kaczynski's are intent on consolidating power in their own hands - but not necessarily corrupt. One could accuse them of being in the pocket of Rydzyk, but I really think they honestly BELIEVE he's doing good - He's not paying them off. The ducks are dumb, stubborn, powerhungry, backward, and economically clueless. But corrupt? Who's paying these guys off steppx?

I agree it's a witch hunt. But rooting out corruption is good. Oughtn't we find a better way to do it then?

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Amyuurt said...

beatroot - business friendly is what Civic Platform (PO) would like to be perceived of course. What I believe is they are mostly their own business friendly. I do not question that there are individuals there who serve some idea of the betterment of the country as a whole, who act out of their higher unselfish beliefs.