The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) says the hefty salary increments for Cabinet ministers and members of Parliament have taken away government’s moral ground to negotiate with sectors currently on strike demanding pay hikes.
CCJP, reacting to the recent salary increments for President Peter Mutharika, his Vice, Cabinet ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs), said the salary adjustments have sent wrong signals.
The former governing People’s Party (PP) has described the pay hikes as “strange” and “laughable” as government has always claimed it has no money.
Government has made the salary adjustments for the Executive and Legislature effective October 1 this year, at a time another arm of government, the Judiciary, is on a strike, for a month now, demanding a salary increase.
Other sectors including a constitutional body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), have also threatened to go on strike as government is seemingly failing to handle the much-talked harmonisation process of salaries.
CCJP national coordinator Chris Chisoni said in an interview yesterday that there has been bad tendency by every administration that comes in where the Executive always think of itself first.
Chisoni said: “This attitude must be reversed. Government should have waited and worked hard instead to heal the economic crisis the country is experiencing.
“There are other sectors that are demanding pay hikes, but have not been considered on the grounds that there is no money. This is double standards. I don’t see how the Executive would negotiate with those sectors demanding pay hikes.”
Chisoni said as the kwacha has continued to lose its buying power, the Executive has displayed utter insensitivity and selfishness by implementing its salary adjustment.
PP spokesperson Ken Msonda said the development shows that government has money and that it must immediately adjust salaries for teachers and all other sectors that are demanding pay hikes.
But the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), supported the salary hikes, understandably because the party’s president and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Dr Lazarus Chakwera and the bulk of its MPs are beneficiaries of the pay hikes.
Chakwera’s salary, previously at K600 000 per month, has jumped to K1 608 million plus fuel coupons of 1 000 litres per month and K350 000 as housing allowance.
An MP will now be cutting home K600 000 from K126 000, representing a 376 percent and also fuel coupons of 1 000 litres per month and K350 000 as housing allowance.
The vocal MCP spokesperson Dr Jessie Kabwila said the salary hikes were justifiable because MPs, who were lowly paid, spend a lot in their respective constituencies by helping people.
Kabwila, however, faulted government in the manner the pay hikes have been made, arguing government should have been open about it by explaining to Malawians how it arrived at these adjustments.
Kabwila said: “Government should have explained how we work as MPs, how lowly paid we were and how we spend personal money in our constituencies. I can challenge you; an MP cannot retain a seat if they do not give anything to the constituents. We take almost all our earnings to the people we serve.”
The President’s salary has gone up by 80 percent, from K1.5 million to K2.7 million per month while that of the Vice-President Saulos Chilima has shot to K1.8 million per month from K1 million.
According to a document we have seen on the new monthly salary and allowance for elected personnel, ministers will be cutting home K1 608 million from K600 000 per month, representing a rise of 168 percent.
Minister of Information Kondwani Nankhumwa told our sister paper, Weekend Nation, that the hikes were in line with the 2014/15 National Budget.