Kenyans incensed by lawmakers' clamor for higher pay

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-25 20:14:04|Editor: Zhou Xin
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by Bedah Mengo

NAIROBI, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- A clamor by the recently elected Kenyan legislators to have their pay raised has angered citizens, who are currently grappling with high cost of living.

The legislators on Wednesday started a push to have their salaries raised and some of allowances the salaries commission had done away just before the Aug. 8 elections restored.

In a new pay structure the salaries agency announced in July, salaries of Members of Parliament (MPs) were fixed at about 6,000 U.S. dollars, down from 7,000 dollars and their plenary sitting allowances of 50 dollars were done away with.

The salaries team further did away with MPs' car grant of 48,543 dollars and replaced it with 67,961 dollars car loan in addition to 194,174 dollars mortgage.

Their mileage allowances were also fixed as the salary commission's move was to save the country 78 million dollars.

The new pay structure, which also affected the president and other workers in the public service, was announced before elections so that aspirants may know what to expect as they seek office.

Therefore, as Kenyans went to elections on Aug. 8 to vote in the president, senators, MPs, Members of County Assemblies and Woman Representatives, they did not expect the salary the legislators earn would be an issue afterwards.

The about-turn by the leaders, in a country where millions live on less than a dollar a day and unemployment rate is over 50 percent, has shocked and angered many.

So angered are citizens that in some parts of the country they have started to collect signatures to recall their legislators even before the new leaders are sworn into office.

"These MPs take Kenyans for a ride. When they were campaigning for office, the salary issue did not even feature anywhere. Now that they got elected, they believe they need to live off the electorate. This is unacceptable," Simon Muchira, a trader in Nairobi, said Friday.

Muchira, who sells clothes at a stall, said he earns about 200 dollars a month from the business, which is not even enough to sustain him and his family of two for a month.

"This is the money I make in a good month after paying rent and other business expenses. Then someone says their 6,000 dollars salary is little. That is an insult," he said.

James Mosoke, a social worker with an NGO, could not believe that he patiently waited for five hours to vote on Aug. 8 hoping for change that are not likely to happen.

"We are tired with the greed of our leaders. Instead of thinking of how they would better the lives of citizens, they are thinking of how they would bleed us. Kenya is an interesting country," he said.

The subject has remained a hot topic on social media as citizens vent their objections on a fatter pay for MPs.

"Any elected legislator who is not happy with the salary review should just quit. We cannot be taken round in circles every five years," said Mohammed, contributing to the debate on the pay on Twitter under the hashtag MPsPay.

"It took five minutes to hire six people into office and decades is all that it takes for a graduate whether high school or university to get a job. And yet the former earns 20 times more. Insanity," said Eassy.

"MPs, you campaigned knowing very well your salary and with no mileage and sitting allowances. Don't try our patience," Njuguna added.

In Kiambu County, on the outskirts of the capital, residents Thursday started a petition to recall their MP, who supported the pay rise.

Some Kenyans, however, have backed the higher perks for legislators noting elected leaders are viewed as cash-transfer sources to the citizenry.

"With slashed pay and zero allowances, don't expect them in your fundraisers when you call them," said Sammy on Twitter.

The legislators pushing for pay hike, however, have stood their ground, noting that they cannot use their sources to do constituency work.

"I can assure you that a majority of MPs are in support of higher perks. On this one we will fight tooth and nail and we will join hands," said Seme MP-elect James Nyikal.

The MPs said they would arm-twist the executive to get their wishes by blocking the approval of Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Officers and other key appointments.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has, however, weighed in on the issue, noting that he would not sign any law passed by MPs to raise their salaries and allowances.

"I will not endorse any increase even if they want to hate me. When they were contesting for the seats, they knew the salaries so they cannot turn around even before they are sworn in and start complaining," he said.

Even with reduced salaries, Kenya MPs remain among the best paid in the world if their pay is equated to the country's gross domestic product (GDP), according to the International Monetary Fund.

They are ahead of their counterparts in Singapore, Indonesia and South Africa, countries that have higher GDP.