The President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono or "SBY" to those in the know, has gone on the record (Kompas) intimating to high-ranking police and military officers that he understands their suffering on the salary front because he has not had a salary rise in more than seven years.
However, this is the kicker, what the president did not say is that his salary is already twenty-eight times the GDP per Indonesian.
One of the fundamental questions with respect to eradicating corruption in Indonesia is whether or not a significant rise in the level of salaries of police and other officials of state will reduce the reliance on illegal fees to supplement those meager salaries, and thereby reduce corruption. It was within this framework that the president was promising to reinvigorate the government's commitment to improving the prosperity of members of the Armed Forces and Police.
Now, most people would not begrudge a salary increase to those who have earned one. Simply, where performance justifies a salary increase then it is fair that an increase occur. Yet, in situations where performance is poor or promises have been broken, then it is not only hard to justify a pay rise but it is the height of arrogance to be suddenly crying poor, particularly when it would seem that one's workload is not so extreme that there is no time to put out an album of favourite songs to entertain the masses rather than feed them.
A survey by The Economist highlighted that SBY was enjoying a salary that ranked him third highest from twenty two countries surveyed. So, what is this in dollar terms? The president enjoys a salary of more than USD 124,000 per year. Interestingly the two leaders in front of him were Kenya (240 times GDP) and Singapore (42 times GDP). It is worth noting that this is the basic salary of the president, according to The Economist. Therefore, it does not include all the fringe benefits that the Head of State enjoys.
The sad truth of the matter is, Mr President, that you have not earned a pay rise. Even more telling in your attempt at empathy is that you really have lost touch with what it is like to be poor in Indonesia and living on or below the poverty line in a nation with vast national wealth and huge potential for growth but with a leadership that has no commitment to anything other than preserving itself. Mr President, perhaps it is time to worry about doing your job, the one you were elected to do and the one that has nothing to do with singing, rather than how long it has been since you have had a pay rise!