In times of austerity, awarding yourself a fat pay rise goes down badly.
An independent body’s suggestion that British lawmaker’s salaries should rise from £66,396 ($105,400) to £74,000 in 2015 has prompted a media firestorm, even though perks such as a generous pension scheme would be slimmed down.
British MPs earn around 2.7 times the country’s GDP per person, on a par with many rich countries. But their basic pay is parsimonious by other states standards, and defining fairness is tricky.
Lawmakers in poorer countries in Africa and Asia enjoy the largest salaries relative to GDP. Voters have noticed.
Earlier this year, furious Kenyan demonstrators burned 221 coffins outside parliament in a row over the pay and benefits awarded to Kenyan MPs (known for their self-indulgence).
Last month MPs lowered their salaries but still managed to secure themselves a $58,000 car grant.
Italian legislators enjoy one of the lushest deals in Europe, including free transport. Indian MPs are ill-paid, but rewarded for their work with beautiful but decrepit bungalows in the swankiest parts of Delhi; these are a far cry from uninviting dormitories in which Japanese lawmakers from outside Tokyo must live.
An odd feature of Thai politics is that the governing party’s MPs are paid more than those of the opposition.
America appears notably stingy. Senators have had no pay rise since 2009, though this is perhaps less tragic when their often staggering personal wealth is considered. What about payment by results: salaries go up when GDP does?