President Peter Mutharika and Vice-President Saulos Chilima have suspended implementation of their 80 percent salary increments that have generated public debate and fury among disgruntled Malawians.
The development came hours after our sister newspaper, Weekend Nation, reported that government had raised Mutharika and Chilima’s salaries by 80 percent effective October 1 2014.
Other beneficiaries of the pay hikes include Cabinet ministers and Leader of Opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera who got 168 percent, deputy ministers (87 percent) and members of Parliament (MPs) whose perks were raised by 376 percent.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) said Mutharika and Chilima decided to defer implementation of their proposed 80 percent salary raise “until the country’s economy recovers”.
“The OPC wishes to further advise that while the proposed salary increase may be justified, the President has decided to forego the increase at this time,” said the statement signed by Chief Secretary to the Government George Mkondiwa.
Asked in an interview why the decision was made after the newspaper broke the story, Mkondiwa said the resolution had nothing to do with the news story but “it was a matter of a process.”
He said, after all, the President and his deputy had not yet started earning the new salaries.
“They [the President and Vice-President] will continue receiving their old salaries,” said Mkondiwa.
He stated that Mutharika and Chilima made the decision in solidarity with Malawians, currently undergoing severe economic hardships.
“President Mutharika and his government pledge to continue working tirelessly to bring the confidence of the country’s development partners back into the economy and improve the living standards of ordinary Malawians,” reads the statement in part.
Currently, the President gets a tax-free salary of about K1.5 million a month and with the increment he was expected to be receiving around K2.7 million a month while Chilima, whose monthly pay is K1 million, was expected to be taking home K1.8 million a month.
The timing of the hefty salary increments created public outcry with analysts warning government that the move would take away its moral grounds to negotiate with the sectors currently on strike demanding pay increase.
For instance, Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice (CCJP) said the increments had sent wrong signals considering that the country’s economy was in a crisis.
CCJP national coordinator Chris Chisoni observed that there were other sectors currently demanding pay raise, but government is failing to give them on grounds that there is no money and by giving itself hefty increments the Executive has displayed utter insensitivity and selfishness.
“I don’t see how the Executive would negotiate with those sectors demanding pay hikes,” wondered Chisoni in an interview with our other sister newspaper, Nation on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Chakwera is set to hold a press briefing in Lilongwe this morning to state his position on the matter, which has seen his salary jumping from K600 000 per month to K1.6 million.
“The president will be holding a press briefing tomorrow between 8am and 9am on the issue of the salary hike, that is where he will state his stand,” Chakwera’s personal assistant Chipi Banda said in an interview yesterday.n