The Salaries and Remuneration Commission, with a total of 12 members, was established by the new Constitution to restore “order and sanity in salary setting”. The SRC was given autonomy and insulated from political manipulation so that the commissioners could execute their responsibilities in a free, just and independent atmosphere.
Sadly, years down the line, the SRC hasn’t accomplished much. It continues to lament and dilly dally, while the disparity between the lowest and the highest monthly income among Kenyans remains immoral and unjustifiable.
Even President Uhuru Kenyatta last week acknowledged as much and took the unprecedented step of cutting his and his deputy’s salary by 20 per cent.
He also directed a 10 per cent pay cut for members of his Cabinet. Whether it was a political gimmick or a genuine concern about the shameful disparity between the lowest and the highest paid, remains to be seen.
Either way, the President’s gesture is commendable against the backdrop of an unsustainable wage bill, record unemployment, pinching inflation and poverty.
However, his directive is a drop in the ocean. It can’t solve the mind-boggling gap between the lowest and the highest wage earners. In fact, wage disparity has created a social hierarchy in which the rich continue to enrich themselves as the poor wallow in deprivation. The so-called growing middle class continues to struggle.
Whereas one Kenyan working for the government earns Sh25,000 a month, another earns Sh1,650,000. What is even more disturbing is that a Kenyan with the lowest monthly income has enormous financial responsibilities which include purchasing personal healthcare, paying school fees, paying bus fare, paying rent, buying food, and paying for security. The result is that they are always struggling with debts.
Ironically, taxpayers’ money is spent on Kenyans who earn astronomical salaries by catering for their health insurance, rent, entertainment allowances, sitting allowances, telephone bills, security, food, school fees for their children, transport, hotel accommodation, gas and virtually all essential services.
That is immoral and unacceptable in a country like ours whose economy is in the doldrums. Yet, as this greed remains deeply entrenched, the salaries commission, which is mandated to harmonize wages, remains unwilling or unable to swing into action.
Perhaps President Kenyatta’s action to cut executive pay was an indictment against the SRC. He did what the commission should have done long ago. Although it is supposed to be an independent body, the SRC seems to be infected by a political virus that has already rendered our most vital institutions dysfunctional.
By Jacktone Ambuka-a Kenyan residing and working at Philadelphia-USA. Reach Me By Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Jackambuka.