Kenyan lawmakers voted to raise their pay by up to a quarter to 1.09 million shillings a month, provoking anger and criticism from the general public and the media. The nation’s members of parliament are already some of the best-paid legislators in the world, a fact that has drawn fire from their constituents who believe they should be paid less.
Kenya’s annual economic survey for 2010 shows the country’s GDP per capita is dwarfed by the lawmakers’ salaries at 57,887 shillings per year. “Will paying them more keep their fingers out of the public till?” Standard newspaper said in an editorial titled “Take the money, but spare us the hypocrisy”. “Integrity of MPs should be measured by the same ruler they use for the same country,” said the editorial, attacking corruption and high pay for members of parliament.
Kenyans are due to vote for a new constitution on August 4, which would, among other things, stop legislators from setting their own salaries.
Lawmakers recommended late on Wednesday that the prime minister get 2.9 million shillings a month, the vice president 2.2 million shillings and the speaker 2.1 million shillings. “They really don’t care about the welfare of ordinary citizens. There are other more pressing matters we should be attending to like improving infrastructure instead of increasing salaries,” said Kimani Muru, a tour guide in Nairobi.
Kenya’s economy is still recovering from the aftermath of a bloody post-election crisis in 2007/8 and an ensuing world economic downturn. Legislators first angered the public by quadrupling their salaries in 2003 as their first order of business after elections.
Unlike in the past, the legislators voted to pay taxes, but only on their allowances. The lawmakers also voted for a five percent pay rise annually to cushion themselves against rises in the cost of living. “Yet another drastic pay hike for MPs … is the most outrageous, insensitive, immoral and intolerant abuse and impunity by Kenya’s officialdom the country has ever witnessed,” umbrella body Kenya Alliance of Resident Associations.