Ambassadors’ pay sparks complaints

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Several of Norway’s ambassadors have received double-digit pay raises that defy state demands for moderation. Newspaper Aftenposten reports that six ambassadors now even earn more than their boss, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre (photo), and there’s rumbling among the rank and file.

Some of the ambassadors receiving big pay raises were transferred out of central administration at the Foreign Ministry in Oslo and granted ambassadorial posts after long service, but also after criticism of their performance.

Bjarne Lindstrøm, for example, held the prestigious bureaucratic post known as utenriksråd until 2005, when he was harshly criticized by a commission studying how the ministry handled the tsunami crisis, in which many Norwegians were killed and injured. Lindstrøm was also criticized for his management style, but was granted the sought-after post of ambassador in London, where Aftenposten reports that he now earns more than anyone, NOK 1,121,000 (nearly USD 190,000) a year.

Støre, by comparison, earns NOK 1,029,000 as do all other members of the government. Their pay was set by the Parliament in October 2008.

Norway’s current ambassador to Finland, Leidulv Namtvedt, also left his administrative position in Oslo after the critical tsunami commission’s report and took continuing education at Norway’s military college (Forsvarets Høgskole). He then was appointed ambassador in Helsinki where lucrative extra pay for overseas assignments also boosts his compensation over Støre’s.

Norway’s ambassador to the US, Wegger Christian Strømmen, received the biggest pay raise last year of NOK 114,000, equal to 11.6 percent. Kåre Aas, ambassador to Afghanistan, won a raise of NOK 110,000, equal to 11.9 percent.

Here’s Aftenposten’s rundown of some ambassador salaries:

  • Ambassador to the US, Wegger Christian Strømmen: NOK 1,094,000 (up 11.6%)
  • Ambassador to Afghanistan, Kåre Aas: NOK 1,036,000 (up 11.9 %)
  • Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Bente Angell-Hansen: NOK 1,056,000 (up 10.6 %)
  • Ambassador to NATO, Kim Traavik: NOK 996,000 (up 10.5 %)
  • Ambassador to China, Svein O. Sæther: NOK 1,016,000 (up 9.8 %)
  • Ambassador to the EU, Oda Helen Sletnes: NOK 1,036,000 (up 9.6 %)
  • Ambassador to Finland, Leidulv Namtvedt: NOK 1,023,000 (up 8.4)
  • Ambassador to Germany, Sven Erik Svedman: NOK 1,086,000 (up 7.4 %)
  • Ambassador to the UK, Bjarne Lindstrøm: NOK 1,121,000 (up 6.9 %)
  • Ambassador to Denmark, Jørg Willy Bronebakk: NOK 1,016,000 (up 7.5 %)
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    Not practicing what they preach
    The raises come at a time when state officials from Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on down are preaching moderation and speaking out against hefty pay raises in both the public and private sectors. A pay deal covering 600 Foreign Ministry employees allotted them average raises of around just NOK 15,000.

    Erling Rimestad, leader of the ministry’s biggest union NTL Utenriksdepartementet, objects to the large raises for a select group of persons who already were earning relatively high salaries. “The ambassadors do an important job,” Rimestad told Aftenposten, “but so do many others who have to be satisfied with modest pay growth.”

    The ministry justified the ambassadors’ raises by noting that some other state officials earn even more, and that the ambassadors have “challenging management positions.” The ministry claimed they previously lagged on pay scales for management posts.

    In addition to their salaries, ambassadors and other diplomats posted overseas are eligible for a long list of lønnstillegg, or extra pay. Diplomats with spouses are paid up to as much as NOK 478,000 extra, they recently won compensation for having to pay tax on housing expenses covered by the state, and they receive tens of thousands of extra kroner to cover travel home, “hardship,” childrens’ expenses and moving costs.

    Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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