Monday, 14 September 2015

Of The Legal Teachers’ Pay Hike and The Executive’s Hubris On The Hike

The onset of this week marks the third week in which our honorable teachers are on strike apparently because of the unwillingness of the government to increase their salaries. In fact, it is not the government that has failed to honor the court order but its Executive arm since the government is made up of the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive. We have had the concerned stakeholders stating their positions regarding this national issue. The teachers have vowed to go on with the strike while the Executive led by President Kenyatta has also stated that there are no funds to finance the stipulated salary increment. This certainly implies that the future of Kenya has been compromised on the basis that the pupils and students are being denied access to dissemination of knowledge and information. 

Last month, the courts issued an order that the Executive should give the teachers a salary increment of 50-60%. The ruling on this matter was upheld by the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal and the Industrial Court made similar rulings which were contested by the Teachers Service Commission. Seemingly, this issue concerning the teachers’ salary increment was in court from the month of January 2015 after we experienced another stand-off by the teachers and thus the ruling was due in the month of August.

In castigating our president and his Executive, it is a shame to disrespect if not to disobey a court order. It seems that this act of political tomfoolery is still rooted in our system where leaders still believe that the masses are composed of layers and structures of citizens who are dimwit and ignorant. Look, our current president is occupying State House because the Opposition chose to respect a court ruling which upheld his election after the contentious 50%+1 condition. In addition, while taking oath of office, President Kenyatta swore to protect the Constitution of Kenya and disregarding court rulings implies that the laws and the Constitution have been abused and overlooked. I understand that our dear president is a man walking on the sword given that his government has been embroiled in scams that have made us to lose a lot finances amid other comedy of errors that have characterized his administration. 

One of the hurdles that President Kenyatta is trying to deal with concerns the wage bill. With devolution and operationalization of county governments, the national wage bill as at December 2014 was approximately 13% of the Gross Domestic Product which translates to around shs.585 billion.  This 13% is way above Africa’s average of 9.5% and the global best practice of 7%. The current wage bill means that it is approximately 27.85% of the current budget and 52% of our domestic revenue. That is the way it currently stands but now let us factor in the proposed teachers’ salary increment. If the Executive was to implement the increment of shs.17.4 billion, then the wage bill will increase to around shs.600 billion. This translates to 13.3% of the GDP and 28.8% of the current budget and approximately 53.3% of the domestic revenue. Statistically, these changes are marginal.

The percentages given above are for the recurrent expenditure which are the finances used to cater for the wages and salaries. With the increase in recurrent expenditure, the capital expenditure which is meant to finance development projects ultimately reduces. The World Bank recommends that for efficiency in economic growth management then the recurrent expenditure should only be 30% of the GDP whereas the capital expenditure should take the lion’s share of 70%. But does this work for the developing countries? Many people will cast doubts on this but in my opinion it can work only if efficiency in managing the wage bill is instituted. Basing on this argument, at least we are in agreement with the president.

Two years ago when President Kenyatta assumed office, the Salaries and Remuneration Commission presented proposals for new salaries and wages structures for the state officers. These were the proposals: the President was to earn shs.1.7m from shs.2m, the Deputy President and the Speaker of the National Assembly were to earn a maximum of shs.1.4m each, the chief justice shs.1.38m, the Cabinet Secretaries shs.1.12m, the Speaker of the Senate shs.1.37m, Senators shs.740927, the Governors shs.1.1m, Members of the National Assembly shs.740920 from shs.851200, Members of County Assemblies shs.118000 from shs.30000. These proposed scales were to lead to an annual savings of shs.500m per year.

If the president and his clique had an objective of transforming Kenya’s socio-economic development trajectory, they should have religiously embraced the proposals and stuck to them come-what-may.  I have always professed and prophesied that achieving Vision 2030 is impossible if we are not going to take into account some economic and governance fundamentals. One of the fundamentals concerns the income disparities which the current government only knows how to talk about it but does less to right it. Take for instance how much the chairs of the following commissions take home monthly: Constitution Implementation Commission and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission shs.1.08m, Salaries and Remuneration Commission and Commission for Revenue Allocation shs.750000, Public Service Commission/Teachers Service Commission/Transition Authority/Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission/Kenya National Human Rights Commission chairs earn shs.750000 each. If we include the commissioners to these commissions then the figures are quite astronomical.

Addressing income inequalities is what the commander-in-chief ought to have set as one of his top-most priorities and agendum as he took office. Why should we have MPs earning close to a million shillings and then get sitting allowances for attending committee meetings? What is the rationale for paying MCAs over shs.100000? Is there need to pay Cabinet Secretaries and commissioners close to shs.1m per month? This is where the SRC should come in full swing in conjunction with the Executive to streamline salaries and wages in Kenya. Let MPs take home shs.300000 which is taxable, chairs of commissions and Cabinet Secretaries should earn shs.250000 to 300000 and the MCAs should earn around shs.70000. Find out by how much this reduces the pressure on the wage bill.

Back to the bone of contention, the teachers need to be given their pay rise. As a matter of fact, three weeks ago, while on a morning show on Radio Citizen, the Deputy President was on record saying that the government will honor the order by the court and he clearly stated how the government cannot disrespect a court order. He went ahead and said that funds allocated to lesser functions will be slashed to fund the increment. His senior, President Kenyatta, after his return from Italy, openly said that there is no money to warrant any increment and Ruto had to change his tune and dance to be in line with the president and so the DP said that the TSC and the SRC, which are constitutional commissions, ought to be respected. But between a court order and commissions, which one supersedes the other? Let the Executive not fool us around. 

Yearly, we lose 30% of our budget due to corruption. If I was the occupant of the House on the Hill, then I would have ratified the increment through the following actions. Firstly, I would slash the allocation for the National Youth Service. Secondly, I would suspend indefinitely the implementation of the laptop programme. Many would argue that this will stagnate development but I would answer them that my actions would be a permanent solution to a perennial problem. Again, assuming that I was the commander-in-chief (may be one day I will), corruption would be history. Of our current recurrent expenditure, most of it is siphoned through the presence of ‘ghost’ workers (who are actually absent). If the government would have dealt firmly with graft, then our wage bill would be around the recommended 7% and increasing the teachers’ salaries would not have been a subject of debate.

One of the failures of the present regime is its incapacity and incapability to have amicable foresight in governing the state. In formation of the government, the president, his deputy and their team ought to have known that industrial strikes are a common feature in our economy. In fact, during his time as the Deputy Premier and Minister for Finance is when the government agreed to pay teachers shs.17.3 billion way back in January 2009 when they were demanding for shs.19 billion. Nevertheless, the government should have factored in the possible increment in this year’s budget just in case the courts would have ruled in favor of the teachers because the case was in court from January this year. This clearly depicts how less proactive the government of the day is. 

Generally, industrial disputes often cause economic deterioration in terms of the man hours that are lost. The current stand-off has led to an approximated loss of 120 hours for the fifteen days of striking. Persistence of a strike often means that socio-economic development is jeopardized. My hope is that the Executive will stop committing the sin of hubris by fulfilling what the courts have brought forth and in whichever way pay the increment to avoid other teacher strikes in future. Otherwise, as an omniscient observer, I will sit on the fence and watch as the next scene unfolds.

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