Iraq's lawmakers are being paid over £180,000 a year-for working for only 20 minutes since they were elected in March, and without passing a single law.
As Iraq's parliament prepares to hold what will be only its second session since the inconclusive election that brought the MPs to office, lawmakers' lavish salaries are causing deep resentment among Iraqis struggling to make ends meet.
Divisions among political blocs have prevented the formation of a new government, and not a single law has been debated, much less passed. Lawmakers are now preparing to hold a second session but only because the Supreme Court last week ordered them to return to work.
The MPs' sole meeting so far, which took place in June, consisted of a Quranic reading, the playing of the national anthem and the swearing-in of new members. It produced one decision: to leave the session open but unattended, technicality to allow more time to choose a new leadership since the election failed to give any party a majority.
"They are enjoying a paid vacation," said Jalal Mohammed, a retired clerk for the administrative council in the southern city of Basra.
Iraqi MPs get a base salary of £6,500 a month, on which they pay just 6 per cent tax. In addition, they receive £7,800 a month for housing and security arrangements. There is also a one-off £37,500 stipend to cover expenses during their four-year term. Regardless of whether parliament is in session or not, MPs are entitled to stay free at Baghdad's Rasheed Hotel and collect a £375 per diem when travelling inside or out of Iraq.
Once out of office, they get 80 per cent of their salary for life.
A high schoolteacher or a doctor in a public hospital typically earn about a tenth of an MPs monthly pay
Lawmakers justify high salaries saying they risk their lives participating in the political process.
"We are exposed to violent incidents in our houses, on the streets, and even in the parliament," said Sheikh Haidar al-Jorani, a Basra lawmaker with the prime minister's State of Law party. He said he had to repair his family home in Basra after it was damaged by a nearby bomb blast.
But the Shia religious leadership, always tuned into sentiment among the Iraqi religious majority, has warned politicians against living the high life while ordinary people lack basic services, such as electricity and water. In a mosque sermon Friday, Ahmed al-Safi, an aide to Iraq's top Shiite cleric urged parliament to lower their salaries when they next meet.