Colonel Gaddafi’s Ukrainian nurse misses Libya
Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi had four “ex-Soviet” nurses on his payroll. He gave them permission to flee to safety in early March. Oksana Balinskaya agreed to share some memories of her time in Libya with reporters.
Chief nurse Halyna Kolotnytska’s stubborn refusal to talk to the media has generated a host of most unlikely rumors. Some said she was sent home because she was pregnant. However, it appears the Ukrainian journalist who made that suggestion was referring to a different nurse, Oksana.
The 24-year-old nurse from a small village near Kiev couldn’t believe her luck: she was summoned for an interview only a month after sending her resume to a recruiting agency offering positions overseas.
She said it was like auditioning for a movie. Gaddafi, who was visiting Kiev, interviewed the job applicants personally.
“He has a very subtle understanding of human psychology,” Oksana said.
They didn’t understand Arabic, so the chief nurse translated for him. She later told Oksana that Gaddafi always shakes hands with the candidates and makes the decision at that moment. Only two of the six candidates passed the “handshake test.”
In Tripoli, Oksana lived in a one-bedroom rent-free furnished apartment and paid for no utilities. A driver took her to work because there is no public transportation to Gaddafi’s residence.
When asked about how the Libyan dictator treated his staff, Oksana said he was very easy to deal with, but still kept his distance in a multitude of subtle ways. He also knew how to make his entourage feel valued. Oksana has two watches bearing his portrait, something considered a “status gift” which “opens any door” anywhere in Libya.
According to Oksana, the Libyans seemed happy with their lives. Tripoli is a giant construction site today, she said. Gasoline is cheaper than water. In shops, they let you off if you are a couple of coins short – you can pay later. “Where else would you find anything like that?” Oksana said.
Although she declined to disclose her monthly income, other sources report that each of the nurses, with the exception of the WikiLeaks star, Kolotnytska, received $2,500 net.
“Kolotnytska is not Gaddafi’s mistress,” Oksana said confidently. “The Americans invented that story.”
In fact it was Oksana who found romance in Libya. Sources say the father of her future baby is a Serb businessman who was working there. They parted when Oksana fled; she is staying with her parents now.
Her native village seems rather dull after Tripoli with 1.5 million inhabitants. A bus runs to a nearby town three times a week – on market days. Oksana’s father drives her in his old car if she needs to go someplace. She and her father devotedly follow Libyan developments in hope that Gaddafi finally gets the better of his foes and that she can return. Living in an exotic African country attending to an eccentric 68-year-old dictator seems more fun than life in a remote Ukrainian village.
Officials’ salaries too high
Regional officials get monthly salaries 50% higher than the average wage in their regions. In some places, this gap is as high as 150%, says FBK, a company that published its findings on the relative earnings of public officials and the people who vote them into office.
People living in the Nenets Autonomous Area seem to have nothing to complain about: there the average wage is one of the highest in the country, at 47,967 rubles ($1,600) a month. But officials in the area set a record of their own in 2010: they drew an average of 108,720 rubles ($3,620) a month. This makes the difference between salaries paid to officials and ordinary people’s incomes 127%. In some regions, the gap is even wider.
Surprisingly, Moscow is at the bottom of the league: its officials get only 9% more than the average salary for the city. FBK experts explain this by the fact that Moscow is home to leading Russian and international companies whose employees enjoy salaries far in excess of the national average. This income disparity is 27% in the Vologda Region, while in Magadan it is 30%.
According to the study, officials in absolutely every region are paid salaries above the average wage for the region where they work. In 66 regions, this gap is greater than 50% and in 23 regions it is over 100%. Moreover, this disparity is not limited to affluent regions: it is even to be found in regions where the budget is subsidized by the federal government. Officials in Kabardino-Balkaria, for example, are among the “most modest,” receiving only 17,343 rubles ($580) a month. This amount seems paltry, especially compared with the Nenets Area. But even this is 50% higher than the average regional salary of 12,017 rubles ($400).
“I think it’s not unreasonable for officials to get salaries that are somewhat higher than the regional average, but this disparity should not exceed 15% to 20%, and certainly should not work out as several hundred percent,” says Igor Nikolayev, FBK strategic analysis director. “Why should civil servants in poor regions get much higher salaries than their constituents? There must be a fixed ratio, not necessarily a formal one, to the region’s average. That would be fair. If you want to earn more you should first make sure that the rest of your constituents have high salaries. That would be a good incentive for officials to develop their region’s economic potential.”
This would take a major reform of the state machinery and raise a host of issues related to inter-budget relations and anti-corruption measures. President Dmitry Medvedev’s initiative to cut the number of regional officials means that part of the funds released as a result could be channeled to raise salaries for others.
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