Can I trust the next legislator with my vote?

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BY BETTY MAINA

As decisions are made in Parliament which include the send off package that legislators had approved for themselves in the last Parliament, one has to know the kind of people that they will elect into power at the next election as they will determine the course that the country will follow and if left to chance the economy may easily find itself crippled.

I join fellow Kenyans in lauding the move by President Mwai Kibaki who rescinded from assenting to the two bills passed by Members of Parliament that would have given a green light for legislators to be awarded a lavish send-off package when the 10th Parliament was dissolved.

What the president did was not only morally right but constitutional. It pointed to the big question that any aspiring leader of this country should have at the back of their minds – the future of our economy. The hard earned tax payers’ money ought to be chanelled into more worthy causes that advance the growth of our economy towards attainment of Vision 2030.

The MPs passed the Presidential Retirement Benefits (Amendment) Bill 2012 and the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Bill 2012 after effecting a few amendments in early January at a time when the general populace expects government expenditure to be lowered and contained.

Government borrowing from the domestic market has gone up to levels that are really worrying. For instance, the cumulative domestic borrowing of the government by the end of May 2012 stood at Sh103 billion having surpassed the target of Sh71.3 billion. A difference of Sh31.7 billion! The government expenditure trend is also a cause for alarm where billions are spent to cover for expenses not initially budgeted for. In light of this the question then that begs is where would the money to fund huge send-off perks and state funerals for MPs come from? This kind of expenditure from the consolidated fund is unsustainable.

Such kind of positions are a bitter pill to swallow for investors and industry who know that one of the ways that the government raises funds is through reforms in fiscal policy and this could mean an increase in taxes payable. Already there are reports from the Kenya Revenue Authority that the authority did not collect enough funds to meet expenses and this could easily deepen the country’s debt or face businesses for more funds.

The MPs were not only violating the constitution but also the Salaries and Remuneration Commission Act by passing the amendments to the bills. It is the sole mandate of the commission to set and regularly review the remuneration and benefits of all state officers as defined under article 260 of the constitution. The commission is also mandated by the same constitution to advise the National Government and County Governments on the remuneration and benefits of all other public officers positions of which ought to be respected.

Going forward it will be important for all those who are elected into power to have a clear picture of their roles and mandates. Industry captains are also calling for more diligence and more vigilance in carrying out the work that all those who will be appointed to government positions will be entrusted with. A lot of the foreign direct investments that the country will receive will depend on the legal framework and policies that are passed in the country. As the economy readies itself for take-off it is important that we keep some costs low especially government expenditure.

As Kenyans go to vote at the next elections it will be prudent to remember the importance of the bottom line and elect people into power whom you are confident will represent your interests well.

(The writer is the chief executive of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and can be reached on [email protected])

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