Any Kenyan will at this time wonder why the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) still exists. This is because, in the commission’s tussle with MPs, the commission has in the few recent years lost.
The lawmakers successfully pushed for the suspension of pay cuts as suggested by SRC and increased their salaries and perks by 28 percent or Sh3.1 billion in the year to June.
Though Kenya is now considered a middle-income economy, the size of its payroll to civil servants is 17 per cent above the global average of 35 per cent. The action by MPs has added to the heavy burden that public and State officers have placed on tax revenues.
Kenya’s public wage bill, including that of national and county governments, stands at about Sh700 billion a year, gobbling up half of the tax receipts.
Public sector employees, including county staff, are about 850,000 who account for only two per cent of the population.
This reality has in the past unnerved policymakers since not much is left for development projects, slowing the country’s economic growth wheels.
The Controller of Budget (CoB) data shows that MPs’ earnings increased to Sh14.35 billion in the period to June, up from Sh11.21 billion a year earlier. This is the fastest growth in MPs’ wage bill since 2013.
All this is happening in the Jubilee regime that has witnessed a string of job losses, near-stagnant salaries and a freeze in hiring following sluggish corporate earnings.
Are the MPs Feeling the rising cost of living?
It seems like the MPs are feeling the rising cost of living and yet while Kenyans are losing jobs, sleeping hungry, MPs have continued to fight SRC’s salary cuts. The SRC had in July 2017 cut an MP’s salary to Sh621,250, down from Sh710,000 previously. The commission abolished reimbursable mileage allowance, stopped sitting allowances for parliamentary plenary sessions and capped payment for committee meetings to 16 sittings per month.
All these cuts which included the executive’s was meant to save the Treasury Sh8.5 billion annually in an economy where public sector wages consumed half of taxes.
But the High Court in December last year agreed with the MPs that the cuts could potentially be viewed as discriminatory and malicious, suspended the notice that introduced the salary reductions pending the conclusion of the suit.
This allowed Parliament to revert to paying MPs the higher salaries and perks as well as offering them the scrapped Sh5 million car grant, cementing their position among the world’s best-paid lawmakers.
The lawmakers enjoy a high salary in a depressed economy, without any care for good governance, putting in place mechanisms for improvement of the economy.
As the MPS enjoy higher salaries, the average pay increase for Kenyan workers last year stood at only 7.9 percent, paling in comparison to the 28 percent enjoyed by the lawmakers. The private sector is struggling with more than 15 of the 62 companies listed on the NSE reported net income drops by at least 25 per cent last year compared with 2017.
Several listed firms have either shed jobs or announced layoffs in recent months.
The Treasury has signalled a continuation of job cuts, hiring freezes and pay increase restrictions over the next year after it lowered income tax collection targets by Sh76.2 billion on the back of sluggish corporate earnings.
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