Presidential salary cut meaningless says Kapito
Human rights activist and head of the consumer association in Malawi (CAMA) , John Kapito, has trashed the commitment shown by President and her Vice saying reducing their salaries by 30 percent far demonstrates their understanding of the economic situation when huge amounts of privileges and benefits are still locked around their offices and milking poor tax payers in the country.
President Joyce Banda and her second in command, Khumbo Kachali, have announced a 30 per cent cut in their monthly take home as a demonstra-tion of "equitable austerity" in the hard economic times.Finance minister Ken Lipenga later agreed that the amounts could be insignificant but that the action is a "serious demonstration" of their commitment to seeing the economic atmosphere improve.
Kachali announced this in Lilongwe Friday when he launched the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS II) and the Malawi Economic Recovery Plan (MERP) aimed at resuscitating the country's national economy .
"...in support of the austerity measures, the President and the Vice President have voluntarily decided to reduce their monthly salaries by 30 percent with immediate effect. Government is also actively considering other cost cutting measures and these will be announced in due course," he said.
Kachali did not say how the office of the president will deal with concerns over the size of the president's convoy, the size of delegations and frequency of travel to international assignments and also the size of the cabinet.
CAMA's Kapito said while it was good for the President and her Vice to align themselves with the suffering masses, they were still holding on to way too many privileges and benefits that they can do without.
"The salary of the President, the Vice and the cabinet ministers are not restricted to their take home. It includes the entitlements to allowances, the motorcade, the number of trips they make internally and externally.
"So to me, even if we reduce their salaries by 50 per cent, it will mean nothing where their other benefits are not touched. While the economic problems have affected the survival of most Malawians, I don't think the President, the Vice and the ministers survive on salaries," Kapito said.
He said Malawians hope for an Economic Recovery formula where savings "come out clear" and the gains can be calculated for the sacrifices that the people are expected to make in the country.
"Let them get rid of the many people around them who are only helping them do simple jobs...the size of the President's aides is too big. We have seen money splashed around by these people where is the money coming from?" he said.
During a press briefing shortly thereafter, Lipenga told reporters that government would "soon" be announcing what measures it has taken to demonstrate commitment to suffering along with the majority of the citizenry as the nation struggles to regain economic strength.
"There will be no sacred cows. All those areas of travel, the convoy will be tackled but of course the details will be announced soon," Lipenga said observing that already, president Banda is traveling using commercial airlines as the presidential jet is on a management contract in South Africa.
Lipenga, who addressed the press alongside Economic Planning minister Atupele Muluzi , also said government was fast working at addressing donor concerns on the absence of a Director at the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) and that of the Auditor General "although their absence did not mean that work stalled there".
The MGDS II and the MERP articulate the Malawian dream for self reliance and determined future through constructive choices of policies that would enhance wealth creation and reduce poverty. The Vice President acknowledged that Malawi has faced socio-economic challenges such as reduced disposable income, scarcity of foreign exchange and fuel shortage and persistent power disruptions.
He, however, hoped that the focus set out in the launched documents should eventually see Malawi out of her current situation at the lapse of 18 months.
The economic turn-around strategy aims to promote export led growth and foreign exchange generation in the five strategic sectors of energy, mining, tourism, agriculture, Transport infrastructural development and information communication technology.