Kenya’s Obscene Politician’s Salaries: Still a Problem

President Kibaki will probably not win the Mo Ibrahim Prize because of his questionable reelection but he sure will leave office a happy man.

According to the Star:

“When President Kibaki walks out of State House after the next elections, he will go home with a hefty gratuity—Sh50 million. The gratuity, the highest to be paid in the history of the country, has already been factored into the 2012/2013 budget by newly appointed Finance minister Njeru Githae.

Apart from the one-off payment of the gratuity, Githae also proposes to increase the annual allocation for retired presidents from the current Sh17.7 million to Sh30.2 million. The increase is meant to cater for the monthly pension which is due to Kibaki plus what taxpayers have been paying Moi since he left office in early 2003. The two will continue to draw the pension for the rest of their lives.”

“……Kibaki will also be entitled to get a monthly pension equal to eighty per cent of his current monthly salary. Kibaki is currently paid a basic monthly salary of Sh2 million (about $26,000) and earns an average of Sh24million ($200,000) a year under the current exchange rate.”

The figures are actually a bit off. Under current exchange ranges 2 million Shillings a month amounts to about US$300,000 annually. Not a bad deal at all.

These figures, however, raise questions about compensation packages for politicians in Kenya. Recently the treasury bribed MPs to pass the new budget and to be nice to the banks with a “gratuity” amounting to almost US$50,000. This on top of their already obscene annual salaries which stand at US$ 161,000, excluding other shady allowances that are never included under official pay. The last time I checked, all things considered, these MPigs (as they are derisively called locally) make upwards of US$174,000.

Per capita income in Kenya (in current dollars) stands at around US$800, with about 40% living below the poverty line.

I have argued before that paying MPs a decent salary may make them less amenable to executive manipulation (For supporting evidence see Barkan and Co. on legislative strength in Africa). But this just takes it too far.

Big vs. Small Development

The Economist raises an interesting question regarding approaches to “development,” claiming that the recent race for the World Bank presidency represented a contest between two broad approaches:

Michael Woolcock, a World Bank staffer, suggests that two rather different models of development have been pitted against one another in the contest for president. On the one hand is what he calls Big Development, whose aim is the transformation of entire countries through investments in national education, justice and public health. Governments are essential to Big Development because they are responsible for the overall policy. And the World Bank is pre-eminently a Big Development institution.

On the other hand is Small Development. “Inspired less by transformational visions of entire countries,” Mr Woolcock argues, “and more by the immediate plight of particular demographic groups (AIDS orphans, child soldiers, ‘the poor’) living in particular geographic places (disaster zones, refugee camps, urban slums), Small Development advocates focus not on building systems in the medium run but on compensating for the failure of systems in the short run. ‘Development’ thus becomes an exercise in advocacy, in accurate targeting, in identifying particular ‘tools’ that ‘work’”.

In this scheme of things Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, the former finance minister, represented Big Development; Dr Kim, a public-health advocate, Small. Dr Kim was almost certainly picked because of his passport. But if his background is any guide, his tenure as chief is likely to shift the bank more towards Small Development. Whether that is a good thing on balance remains to be seen.

I take the side of Big Development (if such a dichotomy actually exists) because of my beef with “pro-poor development” as it is currently practiced  (more on this here).

Development is a giant coordination game with a million moving parts. This makes it much harder to coordinate on “scalable” “tools that work” at the micro-level. Indeed, no one has any idea what these tools really do. In addition, focus on “tools” casts the problem of underdevelopment as a technical one that can be fixed by “experts.”

This approach misses the point by miles.

This and this (highly recommended, a cogent critique of Big Development) and this are some of the reasons wby.

Your statistical guide to The Hunger Games

If you need some relaxing weekend reading be sure to check out the statistical guide to The Hunger Games. It is pretty awesome, really. This is how the author (Brett Keller), described it:

Whenever a new fad  takes over pop culture, social scientists take note. They host conferences, teach courses, and write popular pieces trying to tie the newest thing to their favorite area of research. Consider this post a humble attempt to take that trend to its epic, nerdtastic next level. [Read the whole thing here].

I am yet to read the books or watch the movie, and wasn’t planning on doing either. But after reading this I think I might join the crowd.

Elite political instability continues in Guinea-Bissau

The late Pres. Vieira. Source: Wikipedia

UPDATE: The coup leaders have set up a transitional government and dissolved all state institutions.

The BBC reports:

Soldiers have taken control of much of the capital of the Guinea-Bissau in what appears to be a coup attempt.

Heavy gunfire was been heard in the city of Bissau and the residence of outgoing President Carlos Gomes was reportedly attacked.

Troops have also taken control of the national radio station and the ruling party’s headquarters.

I have a strong feeling that this latest coup attempt (just like the murder of President Vieira and Gen. Waie and last December’s coup attempt) is related to the drug trade. Since mid last year the country has witnessed multiple coup attempts, despite a brief flirtation with democratic rule under the late President Sanha.

Guinea-Bissau is among West Africa’s budding narco states which have, in the last decade or so, become a major transit point of drugs from Latin America destined for European markets.

Is regionalism helping the East African Community

Evidence seems to suggest it is:

Trade between the EAC countries almost doubled from $2.2 billion in 2005 to $4.1 billion in 2010, although regional trade with the rest of the world expanded faster, meaning that the relative share of intra-EAC trade has stayed around 21 per cent since 2005 [The African Average is 11 %]. “Europe enjoys 64 per cent internal trade; our 21 per cent is better than we thought, but we have to make efforts to do better,” said Betty Maina, chairperson of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.

Kenya still remains the biggest economy in the region, although some convergence is definitely likely to happen in the next decade or so given the large hydrocarbon discoveries in Uganda and off the Tanzanian coast.

The region’s oil consumption rose from 96,000 barrels per day in 2003 to 144,000 barrels per day in 2010, with Kenya consuming more than all the other EAC countries put together. East Africa now accounts for 10 per cent of all mobile subscribers in Africa, with the number of mobile subscribers surging from just three million in 2002 to a staggering 64 million in 2010.

More on this here.

Rumors that Mugabe is “fighting for life” in Singapore

UPDATE: The sensational rumors about Mugabe’s health situation appear to be just that. The government is denying that the longtime autocrat is critically ill. According to Reuters:

A terse Zimbabwean government statement saying a weekly cabinet meeting set for Tuesday had been postponed to Thursday had fed the rash of media speculation about the president’s health. Mugabe usually chairs cabinet meetings.

The officials declined to give details about the exact timing of Mugabe’s return, citing security reasons, but one said the president was expected to chair the rescheduled cabinet session on Thursday.

More on this here.

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Unconfirmed reports indicate that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 88, is battling for his life in a Singaporean hospital. The official word is that Mugabe is in Singapore for a private visit to celebrate Easter.

It is believed that should Mugabe pass on his defense chief Emmerson Mnangagwa will take over as leader of ZANU-PF. Such an eventuality would probably result in an early election. The next elections were due to be held in 2013.

More on this soon.

More on Obama’s WB President Nomination

Source: Wikipedia

Nigerian Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is definitely the dream candidate for the Bank. But the realities of U.S. domestic politics and foreign policy concerns are stacked against her nomination to the presidency of the Bank. It will be hard for the U.S. to selflessly relinquish an important tool of foreign policy and influence in the Bank’s presidency.

If Obama backs down, he will be criticized for being soft in the face of international pressure. If he nominates a non-American, he will still be criticized as an apologist for those who hate America (real or imagined) and a believer in American decline.

Obama’s incentive is to get his nominee become World Bank President. Full stop.

Source: Wikipedia

So far those rooting for Ngozi (including yours truly) have questioned Jim Yong Kim’s credibility (he is/was not a fan of neo-liberalism) and competence (he is not an Economics PhD; but a mere MD, PhD) as World Bank president.

You can get Kim’s co-authored book here (or your local library; $97 is a bit pricey), it is on my to-read list (A review of the book is available here).

Here is quoting a post over at the Duck of Minerva for a more balanced take:

If Dr. Kim criticized the growth agenda of the structural adjustment era, so what? This has all become mainstreamed into the Bank’s own philosophy of pro-poor growth.Does it take a PhD in Economics to run the World Bank successfully? If selected, Dr. Kim would be the leader with the most hands-on development experience that the Bank has ever possessed. He would be as or more experienced in the field as serious contenders that were mooted in advance like Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, or Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi (ok, maybe Larry Summers knows more but Summers always know more than anybody). As Daron Acemoglu and Jim Robinson pointed out on their blog [Why Nations Fail]: “Perhaps all of Mr. Kim’s critics prefer the status quo where the World Bank is run by ex-warmongers (Robert McNamara), bankers (James Wolfensohn) or career civil servants (Robert Zoelick). Wait wasn’t that the World Bank that they loved to criticize?”

Adding that:

You don’t have to denigrate Dr. Kim to praise the other candidates. The strongest case is that while Dr. Kim is a good candidate, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala is the dream candidate. She’s from a large developing country, knows the issue well, understands the complex world of global finance, and is intimately familiar with the culture and organization of the Bank. And, for her supporters, the changing nature of the international system has made this practice of the U.S. having the automatic right to appoint the Bank’s president an anachronism.

Will Joyce Banda become Malawi’s next president?

UPDATE: The New York Times is reporting that Malawi’s vice president, Joyce Banda, was sworn in as president on Saturday, ending a tense 36 hours of speculation and confusion about the future of one of central Africa’s most enduring democracies after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika on Thursday.

UPDATE: government broadcaster MBC officially declared his death in the past hour. The Office of the President and Cabinet has also stated that the constitution will be followed with respect to succession (H/T dada Kim Yi Dionne over at Haba na Haba).

The passing on of President Mutharika in Malawi raises important (and interesting) constitutional questions surrounding the issue of succession. The constitution says that the Vice President should take over in the case the president is dead or incapacitated. This means that Ms Joyce Banda is entitled to the presidency.

Source: The Maravi Post

But Ms Banda fell out with President Mutharika in 2010 and has since been kicked out of the ruling party. Mutharika then imposed his brother (legal academic Peter Mutharika) on the ruling party and declared him the party’s candidate in the 2014 election. The younger Mutharika has been the one stepping in for the president instead of the VP. As a result the delay in declaring the death of Mutharika in Malawi has been rumored to be because the cronies of the president are looking for ways to deny Ms Banda automatic ascendancy to the presidency, and a head start in the upcoming presidential race.

So will Ms Banda be able to ascend to the presidency? My answer is Yes. And I have two reasons.

First, the fact that Mutharika could not fire Banda is evidence that the idea of an intra-family succession was not completely accepted by the Malawian political elite, including those from the president’s own DPP. The president’s party got 59% of the vote in the 2009 legislative elections and could have easily engineered a vote of no confidence (impeachment) against the VP or a constitutional amendment to deny the VP automatic succession (Mutharika and/or his brother should have acted on the inside information on his health situation).

Second, the DPP is more divided than Mutharika’s almost auto-coup led on. For instance, part of the reason why the constitutional route was not taken to fix Ms Banda is because the speaker of Parliament, Hon. Henry Chimunthu Banda (no relation to Ms Banda) has ambitions for the presidency.

The government of Malawi has not officially declared Mutharika dead yet. But when they do I suspect that Ms Banda is most likely to ascend to the presidency.

H/T  Lonjezo Hamisi.