The Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review last week delivered a pleasant blow to the majority of Kenyans by delivering the draft Constitution within the set time schedule.
I must take a minute to laud them for their determination to give us a solution to what was seemingly a monumental problem.
Contrary to popular belief, they set aside their differences and worked together to give Kenyans a silver lining in the Constitution cloud. We all cannot be sure of the personal and political driving forces leading to the draft, but we hope that it was in the best interest of our people.
Notwithstanding their good work, I am concerned about the impact of such a huge Senate and National Assembly (proposal stands at 349 MPs and 63 Senators) on our economy. Taking just the MPs, and working with an approximate population of 40 million, each MP would serve 114,613 people.
To put this into context, the US which has a population of approximately 300 million people has an allocation of 100 Senators and 435 representatives in their Constitution. Each representative serves approximately 690,000 people.
Closer home, Nigeria whose population more than doubles Kenya’s at approximately 100 million has allocation of 469 members in their Constitution. They have 39 states, each represented by 3 Senators at a total of 109 Senators in addition to 360 representatives. Each representative serves approximately 280,000 people.
As a member of the EAC, Rwanda which has a similar bicameral legislation is served by a Senate of 26 members and a chamber of deputies comprising 86 members. Though it has undergone untold suffering as a result of the genocide, its population now stands at approximately 10 million people. Each representative serves roughly 117,000 people.
Clearly, our numbers fall below the average. By this proposal, we are saying that we expect our Members of Parliament to serve less people yet we know they are some of the most highly paid legislators in the world.
To add insult to injury, our gross national income which represents our gross yield or output in form of goods and services, falls way below that of the US and Nigeria.
Rwanda by virtue of its recent history is the outlier in this analysis and its statistics (read both GNI and member representation) are not a clear representation of the norm, thus we cannot compare our situation to theirs.
So what are we saying through this proposition?
Should we ignore the wisdom of more experienced countries, where representation is concerned, in a bid to satisfy political needs? Should Kenyans agree to shoulder the tax burden that complements a bloated government?
Don’t get me wrong… I have neither forgotten our recent history, nor do I fail to grasp the grave consequences of disagreement. On top of that, I want to state that I am a strong proponent for a new Constitution, which can resolve our past maladies and bring us into a new era.
What I am saying, is that our country needs to be governed like a business. If the market rate shows that the optimal number of people that should be served by every Member of Parliament is higher than our numbers, then we need to rethink our strategy.
The onus is now on our Committee of Experts to ensure that a balance is achieved which neither hurts the taxpayer nor ignores the ideals that were considered in arriving at the proposal.
However, if the proposal is adopted as is, our MPs might want to consider taking a pay cut so that the country does not crumble under their expensive lives. After all, public service is a calling and not a money-making venture.