May 28 (GIN) – Taking a page from their U.S. counterparts busy stonewalling President Obama’s modest reforms, Kenyan members of parliament voted this week to raise their own salaries, defying the newly-elected president’s call for cuts.
“We do have the requisite number and quorum to pass that motion,” Joyce Laboso, the Deputy Speaker of the assembly said, after MPs on both sides of the house voted overwhelmingly for more pay.
The new wage will be $10,000 a month (851,000 shillings) or 130 times the minimum wage. Kenyan MPs are already among the best-paid legislators in Africa.
Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta, 51, implored lawmakers to accept wage cuts to free up cash to pay for free maternity care, laptops for primary school children, better roads and a million new jobs a year, in a country where the unemployment rate stands at 40 percent.
Lawmakers counter that they need high wages because constituents expect them to provide charitable support.
To many Kenyans, the bloated pay raises are symbols of an “it’s our turn to eat” political culture, in which officials view public office as an opportunity for personal gain, which has poisoned Kenyan politics for decades since independence.
“Did we vote in the wrong guys? This is nonsense! What work have they done in the last two months to deserve this?” prominent businessman Chris Kirubi said on Twitter.
So far President Kenyatta’s program of belt-tightening has drawn little opposition.
Deputy President William Ruto, however, is in hot water over a tour to four African countries this month, for which his office leased a luxury jet it said cost between $200,000 and $300,000. The actual price, however, may be much higher.