As a growing country, energies must be devoted to substantially develop the economy and build a strong foundation for economic sustainability.
Basically, the over Sh540,000 monthly pay for MPs and Sh79,200 for county representatives plus non-taxable allowances is manageable and an incentive to lay a firm groundwork in working towards to raising overall living standards of the 40 million Kenyans.
In many growing economies, public spending is controlled within logical and economically viable margins that do not exhaust domestically generated revenue in order to upscale the size of the national pie.
The close to Sh1 million pay demanded for all 349 legislators and clamour of Sh350,000 monthly pay by County Ward representatives is, therefore, immoral and akin to putting the cart before the horse.
That said, the rationale that informed the need to standardise pay for our MPs is, like in other sectors, anchored on the need to control public spending to sustainable margins and is now dawning on many.
Economic sense demands from the outset , we have to lower the public sector wage bill that has more than doubled in the last four years to the point of consuming half of domestic revenue. Then only can consideration be made to raise monthly incomes.
More importantly, President Kenyatta has asked the 349 legislators and 1,450 County Representatives to join hands with the government to build a formidable foundation for the country’s’ economic take off. And as the President was emphatic even at international forums like South Africa last week and Addis Ababa, every Cabinet Secretary must inculcate a component for the neglected youth and sidelined women into the economic agenda for faster growth. It so basic a proposition that no one has challenged this vision.
In my opinion, this is the best way to achieve long-term economic solutions, coming at a time that devolved governments have come into force.
The MPs and County Representatives ought to support and jealously work towards strengthening key institutions like the Salaries and Remuneration Commission through long-term pieces of legislation for the betterment of this country.
Starving the commission of funding or even contemplating doing away with it altogether, is a deliberate attempt to stall direction towards the right path in rationalising and harmonisation of salaries of State officers.
Only developed economies like Canada afford to pay MPs Sh1.1 million but also sparked widespread uproar from the public. In the US, members of the Congress are paid Sh1.2 million monthly where members are free to refuse unjustified increments and, yes, some do.
In Zimbabwe, which is also a developing and struggling economy, parliamentarians are paid Sh123,590, which is less than four times what our MPs are dismissing as meager pay.
A country like Iran has a president paid less than his MPs due to his simple lifestyle and he sees his job as a service to the people. The president earns Sh20,947 while MPs earn Sh39,582.
But even as we call upon politicians to tone down their clamour for higher pay, we need to equally be aware that there are other government officers paid close to twice what MPs are asking for.
Yet, such officers who include commissioners to various constitutional commissions are vetted by MPs. That is why proposal to reduce the number of full-time commissioners to at least three and reducing salaries of the three to reflect the salary range across government makes more sense than one would be willing to overlook.
The rest of commissioners can serve part time and earn allowances for the sittings they participate in and even allowances payable to the said commissioners must have certain regulation.
It is useful at this point to acknowledge that the work of building the country’s economy belongs to every Kenyan collectively. But in so doing, care must be taken to ensure we do not set a precedent that ruthless employers can use to threaten, intimidate or even slash salaries of low income earners haphazardly. Indeed, we must insist on a legal structure to guide this process.
Similarly, while acknowledging the immense and crucial responsibilities bestowed on the National Assembly in terms of passing legislation and the constitutionally-mandated oversight role on the Executive and Judiciary, all independent arms of government work interdependently, but unity of purpose for the national good cannot be gainsaid.
Similarly, the 47 County Assemblies have critical mandate to legislate and oversee the Governors heading the devolved units. Indeed, county governments’ are best positioned to considerably address the fundamental issue of youth unemployment both in active service and as entrepreneurs doing business with government.
Youth unemployment has presented severe strain in social and economic progress due to wasted talent and expertise over the years. Out of the unemployed population, 70 per cent are youths mostly graduates, a significant number of whom are neither too old to be hired and yet too young to retire.
Improved economic fortunes would not only provide the basis for a pay increase for elected representatives, other state officers and civil servants but also the government would effortlessly be able to sustain such expenditure.
Any paralysis of these units will create a wide gap in development and revenue generation that will no doubt be transferred to successive governments.
It is imperative to have and strengthen the systems that close the disparity gap between rich and poor. Ultimately, Kenya is one and the fathomed course must reflect the national outlook of the 40 million Kenyans.
(The writer is the TNA Director of Communications and Secretary of Arts and Entertainment. [email protected])