Political and social commentators have attributed the decision by President Peter Mutharika and Vice-President Saulos Chilima to defer their salaries increment to negative public reactions.
Our sister newspaper, Weekend Nation, disclosed on Saturday that government increased the salaries of the President and Vice-President by 80 percent only for the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to announce later that the increases, initially effective October 1 2014, had been put on hold due to economic challenges.
But political analyst Henry Chingaipe on Monday dismissed suggestions that the decision to put on hold the pay hike has anything to do with the country’s economic situation.
He said: “When the President’s salary was being increased, the economic situation was already bad. It is the reaction from the public that has forced him [the President] to change the decision.”
Chingaipe noted that in the wake of current strikes and threats to strike for better wages from sections of the public service, it was an ill-timed decision for the President to increase his salary.
Added Chingaipe: “By raising the salary, wait for public reaction and then hold [the hike] later shows lack of policy credibility. Again, government wants to play politics because it wants to show that it listens to public outcries. That is not good.”
However, Chingaipe noted that the mere intention to increase the President’s salary shows that there is need for a general increase of salaries across the board.
Another analyst, Boniface Dulani, agreed with Chingaipe that public outcry forced the President to defer his salary increase.
“It [the decision] bordered on moral credibility, especially at a time when the Judiciary, support staff at the University of Malawi and others are demanding higher pay. While government says it has no money, raising the President’s salary would have put into doubt that claim [that there is no money],” he said.
Judiciary support staff are in week five of their strike that has paralysed the country’s justice delivery system. University of Malawi (Unima) support staff are also on strike to pressure government to increase their salaries.