16 March 2017

Kenya: Opposition and Jubilee Differ On President Kenyatta's Speech

President Uhuru Kenyatta's State of the Nation address in Parliament on Wednesday elicited mixed reactions from leaders.

Whereas opposition leaders said the speech failed to meet Kenyans expectations on the government's scorecard, those from Jubilee said it was one of the best by the President.

Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang'ula (Bungoma) said that the President, at the very most, delivered nothing but a campaign speech that had nothing to do with the State of the Nation.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said he was optimistic Parliament would support the salaries commission report to reduce the salaries of elected leaders.

"It is sad to hear that 50 per cent of the wage bill, which is close to Sh600 billion, goes to salaries and allowances," said Mr Duale.

Deputy Senate Speaker Kembi Gitura (Murang'a) said: "Salaries should be rationalised so that the difference between the lowest- and highest-paid person is not high."

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo-Marakwet) supported the President's efforts to ensure equity in payment of public officers. "We must," said Mr Murkomen. "It is a shame that two per cent of the country is consuming half of the taxes."

PUBLIC RELATIONS GIMMICKS

Kitutu Masaba Members of Parliament Timothy Bosire said the speech was a "well-choreographed public relations statement meant to position Jubilee for the forthcoming general elections".

That was echoed by his Kiminini counterpart Chris Wamalwa, who said it had "a lot of public relations gimmicks as opposed to telling Kenyans the reality".

"The public debt is very high," lamented Mr Wamalwa. "What Jubilee has borrowed in four years is more than what (former President) Kibaki borrowed in 10 years."Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) Secretary-General Stephen Mutoro said the speech did not address the concerns of ordinary Kenyans, saying: "He said nothing about promoting a free media yet it is important to keep the government in check and assist Kenyans."

MPs were, however, particularly divided over proposals to rationalise salaries and allowances for elected leaders.

The President revealed that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission had proposed to him drastic measures to tackle the bloated wage bill that has adversely affected the economy.

Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar said the proposal to slash salaries and allowances of the highly paid was a welcome idea that will go a long way in reducing cut-throat competition for elective positions.

The Wiper Democratic Movement secretary-general said people have been rushing for the elective seats because of the benefits.

HARMONISE SALARIES

But Seme MP James Nyikal said whereas it is good to harmonise salaries, the lawmakers will wait for the report on the floor of the House to see the areas that Salaries and Remuneration Commission had recommended for change.

"That when we shall see what exactly the report is talking about," said Mr Nyikal.

But Senate Minority Leader Francis Nyenze (Kitui) said: "I support the proposal to reduce the MPs' salary."

Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi observed that the President was bold enough to address contentious issues such as salary cuts without fearing that he might fall out with the politicians.

"We must adopt the SRC recommendations," he said.

Nominated Senator Martha Wangari said the government should consider protecting aspirants, especially women, whom she said are being harassed during campaigns.

Earlier, Mr Wetang'ula said: "You could see even from his intonation that the President was at pains to tell Kenyans imaginary success of what his government has done."

Mr Wetang'ula said the opposition, as the alternative government, will avoid the destruction of such falsehoods being visited on Kenyans and focus on the greater picture and the ultimate goal of saving this country from the yoke that Jubilee has placed on it.

"His fumbling about the situation and magnitude of the national debt speaks volumes," said Mr Wetang'ula. "He should tell the country where he found the national debts and where he has taken it, to date."

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