The federal government is passing the hat among senior civil servants and officials to collect funds to help cover the costs of responding to the coronavirus crisis.
As of Thursday, high-ranking officials are being encouraged to donate part of their salary back to the government in line with President López Obrador’s austerity push.
A Finance Ministry letter seen by the newspaper El Financiero says the “voluntary contributions” to public coffers that officials are being encouraged to make would comply with a presidential decree on austerity issued on April 23.
“In a voluntary way, the salaries of high-ranking public officials will be reduced by up to 25%,” the decree said, adding that larger contributions should be made by those who earn more.
López Obrador, who earns a net monthly salary of 111,990 pesos (just under US $5,000), should donate one-quarter of his wage to the government, according to the decree.
Therefore, to set the example he wants other officials to follow, the president will have to forsake some 28,000 pesos for the good of the country, whose economy is in dire straits as a result of the pandemic and the associated restrictions.
Cabinet ministers should donate 23% of their salaries, according to the decree, while deputy ministers and other officials of a similar rank should relinquish 21% of their take-home pay.
Lower ranking officials down to the level of deputy department director are being encouraged to return between 5% and 19% of their salary to the government depending on the position they hold.
If officials decide that they are able to give part of their wages back to their employer, they can make an online transfer or alternatively make the payment at a bank with cash in hand.
López Obrador has made cutting costs a central aim of his administration, and frequently quips that “there can’t be a rich government with poor people.”
In April the president decreed that senior public servants would not be paid their annual, year-end bonus, but the government had to backtrack and opt for a voluntary contribution after experts in constitutional and labor law pronounced that the decree was illegal.
Among other cost-saving measures the president has adopted are flying commercial rather than in the presidential jet – which he put up for sale, living in the National Palace rather than the official presidential residence and largely foregoing personal security.
López Obrador has also refused to increase public debt to support the economy amid the coronavirus crisis, a stance that has put him at loggerheads with many business leaders.