REFERENDUM DEBATE

Useless positions to blame for bloated wage bill

A referendum should and must fix this problem once and for all.

In Summary

• It is the case that besides corruption — which is the leading cause of all economic ills in the country — the wage bill is another pandemic eating away at the fabric of our beloved country.

• The referendum should, at the minimum, focus the country away from dependence on government jobs, to private sector jobs by incentivising it.

 

Salaries and Remuneration Commission chairperson Sarah Serem.
Salaries and Remuneration Commission chairperson Sarah Serem.

Latest available numbers show Kenya's annual wage bill is expected to rise to Sh650 billion by the end of last year, which is equivalent to an annual 11 per cent increase.

Before Kenya’s Ambassador to China Sarah Serem left her gig as chairperson of the Salaries and Renumeration Commission, the government’s broad objective was to “promote a wage bill that is affordable and sustainable”. She was confident that through this policy, the government had managed to “temporarily freeze” a wage increase.

Serem and other policy makers blame part of this on devolution, and Deputy President William Ruto and his supporters have found this to be something to exploit to their advantage against the onslaught of “Ruto will never be President”.

“We don’t need devolution,” the argument from Jubilee B, aka Ruto camp goes. “We can’t afford it!”

Who thinks they’re serious about that? Or, put differently, who doesn’t see the irony in this argument?

Truth is, the only one who cannot see the disingenuity in this argument must be someone who’s easily gullible, or one willingly so as is the case of many, who blindly follows leaders notwithstanding their glaring flaws, which are detrimental to their own interest.

On the other hand, if you don’t see the irony in this argument, especially when put forth by its leading proponent, Ruto, then that’s just unfortunate. It may be a good idea to pay more attention to know why.

All this notwithstanding, it is the case that besides corruption — which is the leading cause of all economic ills in the country — the wage bill is another pandemic eating away at the fabric of our beloved country.

A referendum should and must fix this problem once and for all.

We may not all be economists but ask anyone and see if you can find an explanation that makes sense on why a single ministry can have a principal secretary and a [chief] administrative secretary. Is there any doubt the former in many, if not all ministries, do nothing but doodle on their desks all day waiting to converge at their favourite watering holes?

Of course, all these useless positions eating away at the public till with nothing in return as value is nothing but rewards for rejected and failed politicians who should be left to hit the tarmac as all the jobless university graduates out there.

Getting these positions and the perks that come with it come at the expense of Kenyans struggling to eke out a living. It, therefore, makes sense to revisit this issue in a referendum, which may as well start by chopping the number of counties from 47 to less than half that number.

The referendum should, at the minimum, focus the country away from dependence on government jobs, to private sector jobs by incentivising it.

As one emerging economy government puts this, the private sector is the engine of growth where successful businesses drive the growth, create jobs and pay the taxes that finance services and investment.

Private companies are providing an ever-increasing share of essential services in other developing countries, such as banking, telecommunications, health and education.

As another policy wonk puts it, sustainable and inclusive private sector-led growth that contributes to reducing poverty does not happen on its own accord. To make this happen, the private sector needs to be supported so it can produce high and inclusive growth, while still generating the profits needed to succeed and grow.

In other words, the private sector is critical to economic growth and poverty reduction, but it cannot and does not act alone.

There’s no reason why this cannot be accomplished and more so via a referendum, which we must have.

 

Samuel Omwenga is a legal analyst and political commentator in the United States