, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 10 – The ambitious austerity measures announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta have sparked mixed reactions from various stakeholders and experts, with some warning they may be difficult to implement without a structured policy.
The latest announcement was on Monday when the President directed parastatal chiefs to take a 20 percent pay cut or quit government.
“All parastatal chiefs will conform to what the Executive has done. They will conform!” Uhuru demanded and said: “We will expect that they will take an equivalent 20 percent pay cut as we have taken. We expect them to do it. Failure to do so, I assure you, there are many Kenyans willing and ready to do take up those jobs.”
While emphasising that the current wage bill is unsustainable, the Head of State who was addressing the National Dialogue Conference on Wage Bill dared those unwilling to have their salaries reduced to seek legal redress.
“Those who resist can go to court and even if they win, it’s cheaper to pay them off and get other people. So they should not think they are going to take us back,” the President affirmed.
The conference attended by over 500 participants follows the announcement made by the President and his Deputy William Ruto at the weekend that they would take a 20 percent pay cuts and 10 percent for Cabinet Secretaries.
“This is a conversation we must have because it is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” Ruto said.
While policy experts and stakeholders welcomed the bold move taken by the President and his Deputy, some say that it needs proper structures to succeed.
Institute of Economic Affairs CEO Kwame Owino says if well implemented, the move will demonstrate the State’s commitment in saving for development.
“The President is their employer. As he says, there is need to send that symbolic gesture that he is serious about managing the wage bill. But I think it would be good to have it written in a policy statement,” Owino said.
Some of the parastatal chiefs like KenGen Managing Director Albert Mugo who are affected by the presidential directive said although the move was positive, there was need for more talks.
“The salaries of the public sector need to be rationalised. I guess if it starts with the parastatal chiefs, it is going to affect the other staff. So there is quite a lot of work that still need to be done,” Mugo stated.
Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi who is one of those who must take a 10 percent pay cut added that the parastatals heads had no choice but to comply.
“It is a brilliant idea. If the parastatal bosses are serious, I think it is only fair that they take the example of their leaders; the President, his Deputy, Cabinet Secretaries and the Principal Secretaries,” Kaimenyi said while also urging for more debate and the recommendations made public.