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.

Kenyan MPs raise their salaries, again

Being a member of parliament in Kenya is one of the most lucrative jobs on the Continent. The men and women of the August house unanimously voted to raise their salaries to US $174, 400 a year – which puts them at par with what US congressmen make. Most of this money will not be taxed. Understandably, lots of Kenyans have cried thieves! Although having the biggest economy in the wider region, per capita GDP in Kenya stands at a dismal US $ 1,600. 50% of Kenyans live below the poverty line. 78% of them live in rural areas; the vast majority of whom survive on rain-fed subsistence agriculture. On average, a child born in Kenya can hope to live to be 58.2.

The only good that can come out of this is that it will incentivize MPs to take their constituents more seriously – losing one’s seat has suddenly become more costly – thereby granting parliament better institutional standing by lowering the MP turnover rates (The idea here is that once they feel secure enough in their seats they may start to take their legislative duties more seriously — I know, wishful thinking). The pay hike may also empower parliamentarians and make them less dependent on party bosses and their patronage networks.

That said, it is still grotesquely obscene that Kenyan MPs make 109 times what their masters – the Kenyan electorate – make on average in any given year. And don’t even get me started on whether these clowns honorable members are worth the 1.1 million shillings they hope to make every month.