Kenya outraged over parliament’s bid for raises
NAIROBI — Kenyans expressed outrage yesterday after members of parliament this week recommended giving themselves a $175,000 annual pay package, compensation decried as overly exorbitant in a country where farm workers earn only $40 a month.
The legislators’ compensation package includes pay for housing, entertainment expenses, transportation, a constituency allowance, and an extraneous allowance. The politicians will even be paid for attending parliament meetings.
It outpaces what many European parliamentarians make, and would pay as much as the US Congress.
But Kenya’s economy can’t match those of the United States or Europe. Hundreds of thousands of Nairobi residents live in slums with no running water. In Kenya’s capital, the monthly minimum wage for laborers is $82.
Kenya’s members of parliament, by contrast, could soon take home a monthly pay package worth nearly $15,000.
“They are so selfish. I could grab them by their necks and strangle them,’’ said Muthoni Njathi, 29, who works in a small Nairobi restaurant where workers average about $125 a month. “There are so many people who go without food, so many people who walk kilometer after kilometer to go to work.’’
Kenya’s 222 legislators currently make about $126,000 annually. Parliament’s vote on Wednesday came after a pay committee recommended the increases and that members pay income taxes for the first time. With the new taxes in place, the increase in members’ take-home pay would be relatively small — about $1,500 a month. But newspaper headlines and public reaction have been scathing.
“Not With Our Tax Money,’’ screamed the front page of yesterday’s Daily Nation, Kenya’s leading newspaper. The Standard newspaper headlined one story the “Greedy pack of MPs.’’ Labor groups, the teachers union, and civil society groups have angrily denounced parliament’s recommendation, which is scheduled to be voted on in final form next week.
“It’s robbery without violence. It’s the height of impunity. I don’t think my language can be strong enough on how disgusted we are,’’ said Wanjiru Gikonyo, the national coordinator of the Institute for Social Accountability. “We are not that greedy culture that they have become.’’
The office of the Finance Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta, released a statement late yesterday that appeared to quash the salary increase proposal, saying the nation doesn’t have enough money to increase salaries and that parliament members have previously said the tax burden on Kenyans should be reduced.