NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 25 – None of the eight presidential candidates came up with a clear figure on the preferred minimum wage, during Monday night’s second presidential debate.
The candidates sought to explain various formulae that they would use to ensure that the least paid Kenyan is able to meet his or her basic needs.
“What is the least wage any Kenyan should earn?” was the question by one of the moderators of the debate, Uduak Amimo.
Restore and Build Kenya presidential candidate James ole Kiyiapi said his government would ensure everyone was paid according to productivity, adding that Kenyans who labour the most are the least paid.
“My government will focus on three things; make sure there is equity by rationalising all the salaries from the bottom to the top. Number two, we need to make a bigger cake and number three, if you do more you are paid more. Unlike now where parliamentarians sit for one hour and you pay them Sh800,000 while teachers are teaching for eight hours,” Kiyiapi said before his time lapsed.
On his part, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said his government would determine the minimum wage by first engaging in tripartite talks with trade unions, employers and the government to first know the cost of living.
“We should look at what it is that makes trade unions demand a 300 percent pay rise. The teachers, nurses, doctors, lecturers and so on. We need to have a dialogue to determine this,” Odinga said adding this was key as the cost of living keeps changing.
On his part, Alliance for Real Change candidate Mohamed Abduba Dida argued that the biggest problem that his government would deal with to curb numerous labour unrests, was to reduce the payment gap.
“Any human being does not understand why one should be paid Sh200,000 and another Sh5,000. What my government will advocate is equity. Nobody is super and nobody is a ‘nugu’ (monkey). We have the same stomach, the same children and everything,” Dida asserted.
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta said his government will not only focus on equity by raising the minimum salary, but also reduce the cost of productivity especially in agriculture.
“Every individual in Kenya who is employed must have a decent life. That can only come once we ensure that we maintain the prices of our foodstuffs, telecommunication and so on, at a level where we don’t consistently keep pushing the wage bill up every now and then,” Kenyatta said.
Martha Karua’s plans were akin to Kenyatta’s on reducing the cost of living, before looking into the reasonable lowest wage.
“Wages depend on how much the government is investing on public service. My government would give universal health care, free education from nursery, primary to secondary. This takes away the burden of some of the costs of living from the worker,” Karua argued.
Before having a conclusion on the exact minimum wage for a Kenyan employee, Peter Kenneth’s Kenya National Congress government would initially deal with external impacts on the economy that keep pushing up the prices of key commodities in the country.
Without fully elaborating on implementation, Kenneth said his leadership would cushion Kenyans against for example, “when the oil prices goes up, food prices go up; when the dollar appreciates against the shilling and because we are net importer, we are left with no choice, but increase the prices of goods.”
“We also need to expand our job opportunities, because at the moment, our workers have been reduced to compete for fewer opportunities in the market. And therefore the issue of wage is more or less wide,” Kenneth said.
On the other hand, Paul Muite’s Safina government would give more energy on tax policies that will ensure that business are not spending more on paying taxes than growing themselves.
“On the other hand there are constraints on the employer even as we talk about the employee and the minimum wage. We must grow our economy; we must come up with policies that nurture businesses. We must export more than we import,” he said.
“We have heard more on reducing the burden on the worker, Mr (Musalia) Mudavadi, I come to you… do you think perhaps there should have a minimum wage or not?” Amimo asked.
“The biggest problem is that Kenya does not have a good wage policy. We have not reviewed this on a serious note. I would first pull all the stakeholders and come up with one,” Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi said. “Remember we have a more open market economy and we have used what we had all along in the beginning.”