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Archive for December 14th, 2009

The picture below, taken from a story in The Economist, shows that France, Germany, and Italy are among the nations with the most central bank employees (as a share of the population). In some sense, this is a dog-bites-man factoid. After all, is anyone suprised that Europe’s major welfare states have bloated public payrolls? But there’s more to this story. All three of these central banks ceased to have a monetary policy, starting back in 2002, when their nations adopted the euro. The mission is gone, but the bureaucracy lives on.

To be fair, the bureaucrats in these nations presumably are not sitting in quiet rooms playing minesweeper. Perhaps these central banks are responsible for other functions, such as financial regulation. Of course, given how governments around the world pursued policies that led to a financial crisis, perhaps all of us would be better off if bureaucrats did play computer games all day.

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There’s been a lot of attention given to overpaid government workers in America, as many people have documented, but the problem is global. Bureaucrats who work for the European Union get lavish pay and benefits, yet are threatening to strike because of a proposed pay freeze. These mandarins already pay reduced taxes, get a host of special allowances, and even have the gall to demand free travel on public transport. Interestingly, as this story for Euractiv.com indicates, they apparently realize they have privileged positions and are worried that the current controversy may spark some resentment from over-burdened taxpayers:

Staff at the European institutions are preparing to go on strike next week in a bitter pay dispute sparked by national governments’ decision to block a routine salary increase for EU civil servants. Civil service staff are due to receive a 3.7% pay hike… There is widespread acceptance that the pay rise is legally binding but other options are currently under consideration – much to the chagrin of unions. Diplomatic sources indicated it may be possible to proceed with the 3.7% pay rise, but to initiate a parallel move which would effectively negate the increase. This could include increasing the so-called ‘crisis levy’, which allows European civil servants to be taxed in exceptional circumstances.  …Diplomats said some EU civil servants are concerned that the dispute could open a can of worms if the spotlight is turned on their generous pay and benefits, including the permanent repatriation allowance paid to civil servants – even if they have been in Brussels for 30 years.

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