In a number of posts, I have written to decry the apparent greed of our politicians and specifically those in the 11th parliament whose main business since they were sworn in has been to demand a higher pay, threaten to disband the statutory body charged with determining salaries for state officers and threats to blackmail the executive by paralyzing the finance bill unless their demands are met. Oh and they have ordered the press out of the media centre and will only cover parliament on invite basis!
To digress, one can easily be disillusioned by politicians and see it is a hopeless case. In fact, one would suggest that the office of the politician be done away with completely and replaced by some ad hoc committees that would sit for a specified period then disband. It has been argued that the legislature checks the excesses of the executive. Someone tell me how this is possible when the majority in the legislature are members of the governing party, they have a majority in the parliamentary committees and all the members from whatever party are united in rapin’ the taxpayer! The press can’t check the government since the leaders have the biggest shares in the major media houses. The civil society tries its work but I think it is not systematic and consistent.
In the past we have had commissions [Cocker commission and Akiwumi] to review the salaries paid to our members of parliament and all the commissions have always recommended that the MPs be paid handsomely to cushion them from corruption, to allow them to live in dignity[read live in gated communities away from their poor constituents], to own a good car[the bigger the better] and so on. The Akiwumi report recommended that in order for MPs to pay tax on their allowances, something they ought to have been doing, their salaries had to be increased to cushion them from loss in income. The members of the commission argue here that the ILO statutes do not allow reducing the pay of an employ or something of that kind which I agree with but that was not relevant here. These men and women had not been remitting money to the revenue authority illegally and as such this couldn’t be construed as reducing their salaries per se but correcting a wrong which had been allowed to go on for long. It was therefore a sigh of relief when the SRC in their wisdom recommended that the salary paid to the members of the house be reduced to reflect the state of our economy and to match their job group [what job group is MP?]. It is this that they have been contesting since they were sworn in.
Kenya is ranked among the poorest countries in the world where a great majority of the population live below the WB and IMF poverty line of a dollar a day, there is endemic unemployment and those who are employed are more often than not underpaid or underemployed. It is therefore disturbing that those who claim to be their representatives in demanding higher salaries for themselves do not take into account the financial reality of the country. We pay our MPs more or close to the same amount of money MPs in our donor countries are paid, talking about a beggar insulting his benefactor!
Even though I find politicians to be lost causes, there is one president, President Jose Mujica of Uruguay, who stands high above the rest of them. This is a man who when he became president,
chose not to accept the chauffeur-driven police escort to the elaborate presidential palaces of La Residencia de Suarez. Instead, on that victorious evening, Mujica drove home to his wife Lucia at their modest farmhouse on the outskirts of Montevideo in one of his few owned assets, a 1987 Volkswagen Beetle. It was a simple and modest act that was to be the cornerstone of Mujica’s political direction from then on.
Whereas am not asking our MPs or anyone else for that matter to donate their earnings to charity, I want to point out that greed is not the only way to serve the rest. I hope that it can be said of MPs, as Col R. Ingersoll said of Abe Lincoln, here is a man when he had great power he used to for the good of his fellow-man. Am hoping that they will be reasonable and realistic, but over and above this I hope they will come to the realization that we do well without them and as such they could disband the national assembly or reduce its size considerably and look for work elsewhere.