President Uhuru Kenyatta inspecting the guard of honour outside Parliament building. (photo: Maxwell Agwanda/Standard)
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Wednesday delivered a shocker to Members of Parliament and civil servants as he announced intention to cut salaries and allowances.
In his final State of the Nation address before the next election, the President said he had received a report from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) that proposes far-reaching measures in reducing the public wage bill.
This move will affect thousands of civil servants and reduce the appetite for those seeking elective posts in the next General Election.
The President said the country could be reaching the ‘point of no return’ as the clamour for higher pay gains momentum in all sectors of the economy.
He explained that 50 per cent of all the Government taxes were being used to pay the salaries of civil servants and elected leaders.
“The public wage bill stands at Sh627 billion per year, amounting to 50 per cent of the total revenues collected by the Government. This staggering amount is used to pay the salaries and allowances of 700,000 public officers including those of us here today,” the Head of State said.
“In simple terms, 50 per cent of all the money collected as revenues in Kenya goes in to the pockets of less than 2 per cent of the country’s total population.”
Uhuru said the report recommends, among other measures, rationalisation of the salaries and allowances paid to senior State officers, public servants, elected officials from MCA all the way to the president.
“This will result in a reduction in salaries and allowances for those elected in August this year. As your President, and as a Kenyan, I fully support the recommendations of the SRC and I call upon all of us to adopt these recommendations,” the President told MPs.
What had begun as a speech enumerating the achievements of the Jubilee Government quickly turned into a nightmare for some lawmakers who could be seen shaking their heads and waving hands in consternation, even as those supporting the President’s proposal gave him a standing ovation.
“I appreciate that the silent fear of every politician is ending their career in politics broke and destitute… However, we must always remember that the calling of leadership is to serve. Not to become rich through serving,” the President told the lawmakers.
DROP IN OCEAN
It would not be the first time that calls are being made for a reduction in the public wage bill.
In 2015, President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto took a 20 per cent pay cut in a move that proved to be a drop in the ocean in a country where the clamour for higher wages is a normal occurrence.
“These recommendations will allow us to pay more attention to our medical professionals, our teachers, our policemen, prisons officers and many others who also need to receive adequate compensation for the services that they render. Most importantly, we will be respecting the wishes of our own employers, the wananchi,” President Kenyatta said.
In what was largely a campaign speech, Uhuru enumerated the achievements of his Government, touching on various sectors such as education and infrastructure.
The President said he had kept the promise four years into his administration.
He said his Government had supported devolution by increasing shareable revenue to the counties.
The President warned drug cartels, telling them that: “We shall hold them to account for the deaths they have caused and the families they continue to destroy.”
“I also assure those distraught mothers who have pleaded with me during my recent visits to the Coast that my administration will catch up with the drug lords who are poisoning our children,” President Kenyatta said.
The President said the Jubilee administration had.
He said his administration had also improved the health sector, provided electricity and built thousands of kilometres of roads in rural areas.
“We have established a firm foundation which can now be used as a springboard to accelerate the growth of our economy and provide jobs for our youth,” he said.
When he itemised the Standard Gauge Rail (SGR) as one of his achievement, he received a standing ovation.
Uhuru invited the MPs for the inaugural ride in June when the project will be commissioned.
On the 2017, elections, the President called for peace and expressed confidence in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries commission (IEBC), which has in recent days come under the spotlight on its preparedness for the August poll.
“Elections are a one-time event but Kenya is larger than all of us and shall, and must remain. Those seeking political office must desist from any utterances that may divide Kenyans along ethnic, religious or other lines… Go and vote and then let us return to building the house we have inherited from our fathers,” he said.
The President’s speech was given in accordance to a constitutional requirement that the President addresses Parliament once every year and at any other time.
The President is required to report measures and progress in the realisation of national values and submit a report to the National Assembly.
He is also required to report on progress in fulfilment of the country’s international obligations and on the state of security of the republic.
Earlier, fears that the speech would be disrupted by sections of the Opposition did not materialise in a session that was attended by senior Government officials, diplomats and ordinary citizens.
The revelations that plans are afoot to reduce the salaries of civil servants and elected leaders would be a bitter pill to swallow for aspirants.