Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The secret of their salary

AOG, Madrid

April has been a funny month in Madrid. One day it is hot enough to inaugurate the “shorts” season, and the next it rains. Is this global warming?

Since January, I have been doing an internship at SER radio. Normally I started at three and left at ten PM. I have been re-allocated to the morning shift: eight to three PM. I find myself with a lot of free time in the afternoons. It has only been three days, but already I’m finding it a bit hard to adjust. It is difficult going to bed before midnight, though, surprisingly, it is relatively easy to wake up early. Go figure.

Last week, I watched a program called “Tengo una pregunta para usted” (I have a question for you), in which 100 regular people (referred to as citizens in the news), ask a politician a question.

The first guest was Spain’s Prime Minister, Señor Zapatero. His program did not go all that well. Some complained he had not had the opportunity to watch the show beforehand, unlike the leader of the opposition, Señor Rajoy. Out of the whole show, the only question which stuck out in people’s minds was the one where Señor Zapatero is asked the price of a cup of coffee. “It depends where you go but I would say normally about 80 cents” he replied. The media had a field day. It is true that in Spain’s parliament, subsidised coffee is 80 cents. But not in the real world.

However, Señor Rajoy also hade his Waterloo on television when he was asked his salary by a woman who lives on a monthly 300 Euros pension. His first reply was “Huh??” and then he declined to answer, though he assured her two things:

1- (humbly) he earned considerably more than her.

2- He was working hard to ensure that everyone’s pensions were improved.

Hard to believe from a man who has spent his entire time in the opposition fighting the Government at every opportunity, and then some.

Anyway, next day at work most people were siding with his actions. “The poor woman would have felt very uncomfortable if he had told her how much he made” was the reply I heard from most (though not all) people. Funny how it is quite customary in Spain to think of other people as being of less than average intelligence. I asked myself a few questions during that day- a day in which the press had another field day revealing the salaries of Spain’s top politicians, one after the other (even Señor Rajoy’s, who to this day continues to avoid saying how much he makes a month!).

I asked myself if most people think this woman would indeed be amazed to hear that Señor Rajoy makes over 9,000 Euros per month (he receives 2 salaries, one as a member of Spain’s Parliament and the other as leader of his party). I wondered why so many people were reluctant to talk about salaries ( I have since learned that in Spain- like in the UK-, salaries are private), and especially Señor Rajoy. After all, did he really believe for a second that the press would not reveal how much he made? After all, as a politician, his salary is public information.

I fully understand that many would not like to reveal their income, but a politician whose salary is voted publicly in Parliament? Odd to say the least.

Many have said that he was trying to, not so much save face, but rather please everyone. His intervention in the show had a higher audience than Señor Zapatero’s.

I read that, after 2 politicians, the show’s producers are looking for their next guest. Could be a painter, an actor, a musician….I think the public will vote. I think I should like to see who goes up for scrutiny next.

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