Saturday, 28 February 2009

Sharpen your sense of fairness


During the period of most intense fighting in Iraq, a common story making the rounds was about the apparently excessive wages paid to security contractors. Many of these reports misrepresented pay in the private military sector as a whole and certainly within Iraq. Often, it was alleged a wage of $1000 per operative per day –some even argued that per hour– was the going rate. Generally, that applied to probably some 800 men with previous Special Forces background. It was not really an excessive paycheck, as these former soldiers spent many years training and risking their life on the ground before being released from service. It should not be forgotten that they regularly worked for periods of about 2-3 months followed by at least a month break. Though for the vast majority of foreign operatives, pay oscillated anything between $100 and $600. In fact, most of the people undertaking security tasks have been largely Iraqis and earned, at country rates, even less.

So some folks made $200,000+ a year for 2-4 years, which was largely used to secure their children’s education, to trim mortgages, and perhaps to buy the odd sports car. Yet the market matured and security improved; thus now such highly paid security jobs are comparatively a rarity. Nevertheless, these operatives risk their life on a daily basis and provide the supplementary manpower needed to turn things around in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hot spots. In Iraq alone, over one thousand of them have died.

The reader should contrast this lifestyle with that of the greedy fat cats who caused the current financial downturn, produced nothing tangible or of lasting benefit, and want to carry on living on Cloud 9. The problem is that now most of us are paying for their billionaire lifestyle.

If you think things are bad in the US, think twice. In the US, government is taking bold steps to address imbalances. In the UK, in contrast, it seems government is waiting for society to flip before turning rhetoric into real world policies. Take for example the case of Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Goodwin steered RBS to the brick of collapse. The bank was rescued by taxpayer’s money and practically nationalized. The reward for Goodwin was a lifetime pension worth $870,000 per year (£600,000), which was approved by government officers after the bank was nationalized. Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, says that his government is powerless to stop the payment of the pension.

President Obama is meeting Gordon Brown in Washington DC this week. President Obama should not listen too intently to someone who fancies himself as the savior of the world economy but does not seem to have the requisite power, will, or fortitude to back his own calls for reform with action in his own country. Meanwhile, the state of British defense is in tatters due to the lack of adequate funding and chronic mismanagement. At least the British private military and security sectors continue to be in decent shape and ready to fill growing UK national security gaps.

How things are turning, it is becoming of little concern if some highly-qualified private military and security personnel make more money than regular servicemen or police officers as long as they do their job. Rest assured you would never hear of any Private Military Company been rescued by government and its former CEO handed a publicly-funded golden parachute worth $870,000 per year for life.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Hey, excellent blog you have here. I had no idea that you maintained a blog on top of your PMC.org website. I will link it on Feral Jundi. Cheers.