Kenya’s president has announced that he and his entire cabinet will take pay cuts as part of austerity measures to reduce the country’s rising wage bill.
The move would be a first in the East African nation where politicians like MPs are some of the best paid on the African continent, taking home $15,000 a month in salary and allowances. The average Kenyan earns just $1,500 a year.
Uhuru Kenyatta said on Friday that he and William Ruto, Kenya’s deputy president, would take a 20 percent pay cut while members of his cabinet will see their pay reduced by 10 percent with immediate effect, according to the Associated Press news agency.
A new policy, Kenyatta said, would restrict foreign journeys to only the most essential. He said rules would be enforced to reduce wasteful government spending.
Kenya is spending close to $4.6bn in salaries leaving only $2.3bn for development, Kenyatta said.
“We need to deal with this monster if we are to develop this nation otherwise sooner or later we will become a nation that only collects taxes to pay ourselves,” Kenyatta said.
He was speaking at the end of a cabinet retreat near Mount Kenya to review progress made one year since he was elected.
The selection of the luxurious Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Lodge, for the cabinet retreat, has drawn criticism from local media who reported that it flouted a directive by the finance minister to use government facilities for meetings in order to cut on costs.
Last year Kenyans staged a major protest near parliament against politicians’ demands for higher pay. Demonstrators carried placards with words “MPigs” and “End Vulture Impunity”, a reference to the MPs’ apparent greed.
Presidential pay cut
A Salaries and Remuneration Commission formed in 2012 to review and determine the salaries of all public workers cut the president’s annual pay from around $340,000 to $185,000 a year.
Kenya’s wage bill shot up following additional levels of government that were introduced by the adoption of the 2010 constitution which among others things introduced 47 county governments with elective offices that required recruitment of additional staff.
The salaries commission has argued that although Kenya is among the world’s poorer economies, its legislators are earning more than those in France.
Anti-corruption crusader Mwali Mati said he was treating the president’s announcement of a pay cut “as a gimmick”.
Mati said the only way to reduce government expenditure wass to stem waste and fraud in the central government.
He said the auditor general’s report at the end of 2013 said that over $3.5bn had gone missing from government coffers.
Kenyatta asked for a probe into the missing cash but months later the president has not explained where the money has gone, Mati said.
“People are using gimmicks to explain away the inability of governments to plug leaking of funds,” he added.
“A pay cut is not going to resolve the budget deficit in Kenya. What will resolve it is proper use of budget allocations and action on the auditor general reports.”