A highly-debated bill is looking to add a dozen seats to Maltese Parliament to address its deplorable gender imbalance. For a country that has the worst paid parliamentarians but most MPs per capita in the EU, adding more seats could result in us throwing money at one issue while increasing another.
Here’s how much each Maltese MP, of which there are 67, could benefit if the sum allocated to adding these 12 seats were given as a well-needed pay rise.
In 2021, an MP is entitled to a salary of €23,492 per year.
The gender-balancing bill, in the current parliamentary scenario, would add up to six seats for the Nationalist and Labour Party should less than 40% of MPs be women after an election. That is an extra €23,492 times 12, which makes €281,904.
If this money were allocated to existing 67 MPs, each would be entitled to a raise of €4,207.
This equates to around €350 extra on top of their monthly €1,957.
At just €1,957, some bright people, including women, may be deterred from even contesting an election.
In the supporting document to the gender-balancing bill, its authors suggested that making being an MP a full-time occupation will help attract more women into politics.
This, together with a pay-rise and other measures, could be a winning formula for women to take the plunge to put their names on political ballot sheets.
It could also help address a long history of MPs abusing Parliament’s attendance rules, as suggested by Standards Commissioner George Hyzler. Last year, some MPs skipped over 25 sittings, meaning they didn’t show up to work at the expense of taxpayers.
It’s a long-standing issue in both current and previous administrations and has frequently led to the argument, as echoed by the Venice Commission and NGO Republikka, that Malta’s MPs need a substantial pay rise if they’re expected to do a better job.
But budgets aren’t unlimited, and adding a dozen more seats will impinge on the state’s ability to do this.
Criminal lawyer and former MP Franco Debono has come out against the idea that rising salaries will attract better politicians and discourage corruption, saying that people that are successful in life have a comfortable salary and therefore wouldn’t need to depend on an MP’s wage.
But how are women, expected to juggle domestic labour, child-raising and a full-time job supposed to additionally take on a part-time role as a decision-maker?
These people are shaping the laws that affect us all – they deserve to be paid well and dedicate their careers to it.
Do you think MPs should be paid better?