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Kenyan MPs’ vote for big pay packet increase rejected

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Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenyan Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta criticised parliamentarians for awarding themselves pay rises of up to 25 percent, newspapers reported on Saturday, but analysts said he had little power to resist them.

MPs voted this week to raise their pay to 1.09 million shillings a month, dwarfing what ordinary Kenyans earn and provoking anger from the general public and the media.

The Daily Nation newspaper quoted Kenyatta as saying that the 2010/11 spending plans, which he tabled in the house last month, had not factored in a pay rise for the legislators.

“The actions taken by the honourable members are not supportive of these noble objectives because they will trigger demands for salary increments by other sectors,” the paper quoted Kenyatta as saying.

“These will lead to a wage spiral, hence creating inflation and weakening our competitiveness.”

Although the MPs voted to start paying taxes on their allowances for the first time, their new pay far outstrips the country’s GDP per capita of 57,887 shillings per year.

In the budget, Kenyatta raised spending to almost one trillion shillings as he sought to add momentum to economic growth, which is rebounding from post-election violence in 2008, drought and effects of the global financial crisis.

Political analysts said the parliamentarians would have their way despite Kenyatta’s opposition to the salary increases.

“They will definitely blackmail him. When he takes the budget to the house, they will say to him, we are not passing this thing unless you give us what we want,” said Mutahi Ngunyi, a Nairobi-based analyst.

“Parliament has become a field of accumulation, not legislation. If they don’t get this money, they will raise it through corruption. It beats the whole notion of democracy.”

Parliamentarians have tried to justify the pay rise by saying that they are traditionally expected to pass on some of their salary to constituents to keep their support.

The MPs’ move came a month before Kenyans vote in a referendum on whether to adopt a proposed new constitution which will, among other reforms, take away legislators’ right to set their own salaries.

“The idea is to buy some political financial insurance ahead of time,” analyst Ngunyi said.

The legislators decided that the prime minister should earn 2.9 million shillings a month, the vice president 2.2 million shillings and the speaker of parliament 2.1 million shillings.

Source: Reuters

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