BAGHDAD -- Senior Iraqi officials say the high salaries and other benefits given to parliament members and top-ranking state officials need to be cut because they will drain the budget, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq reports.
Hilal al-Tahan, a budget auditor and member of the Finance Ministry's expert panel, said that the salaries, allowances, and other perks enjoyed by Iraq's "special-grade" officials -- including members of parliament -- cost some $1 billion a year.
He added that the real strain on the state budget would be most severely felt after a few parliamentary terms, when several generations of lawmakers and high-ranking civil servants begin receiving their pensions.
Tahan pointed out that before then, new "special grades" will be created for regional leaders, their representatives abroad, and related staff, raising the costs some sevenfold.
He cautioned that within 10 years the Iraqi budget would have nothing left for investment, as all funds would go to pay government salaries and state pensions.
He said that in view of this prospect, Finance Minister Baqir Jabr al-Zubaidi has proposed a 50 percent pay cut for state employees.
Central Bank Statistics Director Mudhhir Muhammad Salih told RFE/RL that urgent action was needed to prevent a catastrophic depletion of the country's resources.
He said that if nothing was done, "Iraq will become the land of aristocratic pensioners unproductively siphoning off its wealth."
Salih said that if no solution was found soon, then future generations would suffer the consequences of a wasteful policy, just as the present generation was enduring a similar legacy from the former regime.
The basic monthly pay for each of Iraq's 325 parliament members is 9 million dinars (about $7,700).
In addition, each lawmaker is entitled to up to 30 bodyguards -- usually family members and other close relatives -- free accommodation, and a generator to ensure a constant power supply.
The cost for such benefits are about $10,000 a month, making the total monthly cost for a deputy about $17,700.
Their pension is 80 percent of their last salary.
Together with their family members they also carry diplomatic passports, which they keep for eight years after the end of their parliamentary service.