(AP) Kenya's president Friday announced that he and his entire cabinet will take pay cuts as part of austerity measures to reduce the country's rising wage bill.
Uhuru Kenyatta said that he and Deputy President William Ruto will take a 20 percent pay cut while members of his cabinet will see their pay reduced by 10 percent with immediate effect.
Kenyatta said a new policy will restrict foreign journeys to only the most essential. He said rules will be enforced to reduce wasteful government spending. Kenya is spending close to $4.6 billion in salaries leaving only $2.3 billion for development, Kenyatta said.
"We need to deal with this monster if we are to develop this nation otherwise sooner or later we will become a nation that only collects taxes to pay ourselves," Kenyatta said. He was speaking at the end of a cabinet retreat near Mount Kenya to review progress made one year since he was elected.
The selection of the luxurious Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Lodge, for the cabinet retreat, has drawn criticism from local media who reported that it flouted a directive by the finance minister to use government facilities for meetings in order to cut on costs.
When the Salaries and Remuneration Commission was formed in 2012, to review and determine the salaries of all public workers, the commission cut the president's annual pay from around $340,000 to $185,000 a year.
Kenya's wage bill ballooned following additional levels of government that were introduced by the adoption of the 2010 constitution which among others things introduced 47 county governments with elective offices that required recruitment of additional staff.
Kenyan legislators have been criticized for pushing for higher pay despite earning more than $15,000 a month in salary and allowances, while the average Kenyan earns just $1,500 a year. Many Kenyans consider their legislators overpaid and greedy.
The salaries commission has argued that although Kenya is among the world's poorer economies, its legislators are earning more than those in France.
Anti-corruption crusader Mwali Mati said he is treating the president's announcement of a pay cut "as a gimmick."
Mati said the only way to reduce government expenditure is to stem waste and fraud in the central government. He said the auditor general's report at the end of 2013 said that over $3.5 billion had gone missing from government coffers. He said Kenyatta asked for a probe into the missing cash but months later the president has not explained where the money has gone.
"People are using gimmicks to explain away the inability of governments to plug leaking of funds," he said. "A pay cut is not going to resolve the budget deficit in Kenya. What will resolve it is proper use of budget allocations and action on the auditor general reports."