Raising the Salaries of Cops and Soldiers

The Duterte administration recently increased the wages of policemen and soldiers in the Philippines. Lowest-rank uniformed personnel would nearly see a 100 percent increase in their base salary. Although the legislature cites the need to reward the men and women who have served faithfully and accomplished what they needed to do, Duterte has stated that the salary hike is meant to curb corruption in the police and armed forces. This is also apparently the reason why the hike for these civil servants needs to be prioritized. Surprisingly, this line of thinking is in fact supported by evidence-based research. Salaries are indeed negatively correlated with corruption.

Corruption in law enforcement and the armed forces is of course long known in the Philippines. This is partly the reason why there are numerous deaths associated with the drug war currently waged by the Duterte administration. The need to curb corruption among these civil servants is especially urgent especially when one realizes that these government employees are armed with guns. Duterte's statement on how criminals are entering the police force is not far from the truth especially when these positions are not attracting the right people.

In a study of low-income countries similar to the Philippines, Caroline Van Rijckeghema and Beatrice Weder find that increasing the salaries of government employees is indeed correlated with a decrease in corruption.

Above copied from
C. Van Rijckeghem, Weder B. Bureaucratic corruption and the rate of temptation: do wages in the civil service affect corruption, and by how much?
J. Dev. Econ., 65 (2) (2001), pp. 207-331

And the salary hike truly needs to be substantial to be effective. The action taken by the Duterte administration is therefore supported by research. And there is really no question why this needs to be a high priority.

Obviously other civil servants need a salary raise as well and in particular, public school teachers have been long asking for a salary that can in fact support their families and enable them to focus more on the learning of their students. Raising the salary of teachers is not found to correlate strongly with learning outcomes but the fact that teachers do need to support themselves and their families cannot be ignored. These salary raises do require government funds which come from taxes. It is then understandable why the Duterte administration is likewise finding ways to increase government revenues by reforming the country's tax laws. There are costs and benefits. Corruption, incompetence and inefficiency obviously can get in the way of balancing costs and benefits. Teachers do need salaries that can meet their basic needs, but the prioritization made by the Duterte administration as it tries to combat corruption first is actually justified.