Cabinet should die a little
Honourable Folks, since JB and the Vice-President slashed 30 percent off their salaries, the view gaining currency nowadays is that it is within the powers of the President, as the hiring authority, to issue a directive to Cabinet ministers to follow suit.
The other side of the argument is that if any minister is unwilling to have their salaries chopped, then JB can aim the axe at the job itself.
Obviously, this view is informed by the perception that folks who travel perched on the comfy back seat of the Mercedes Benz earn by far much more than the average Malawian living on less than a dollar a day.
Who can fault that thinking just by the looks of these lucky fellows? Most of them look well-fed if not over-fed. They sweat freely even in an air-conditioned room. They also easily throw away crumbs at the poor electorate in the village, most likely to seek favours at the next election since most of the ministers are also MPs.
If the truth be told, the JB administration is perpetuating a culture that started in the Muluzi era of hiding real incomes from perks for the fat cats in government, not basic salaries.
Reducing salaries for members of the Cabinet may, therefore, still help cut costs, but in a small symbolic way. It is a gesture that disabuses the disgruntled public sector employee of the thinking that their bosses are busking in opulence while the rest of them are suffering the pangs of heavy devaluation and the accompanying rising cost of living.
I have heard university lecturers argue that it is okay to demand 113 percent pay raise because less deserving folks in government earn much more for doing a job that requires no special skills. You just have to be elected then appointed by the President into the Cabinet.
But the interest of putting the country on an economic recovery course is best served by chopping where there is excessive fat to have a lean, competent and efficient civil service that is smaller than the economy.
JB could start by hemming the Cabinet, removing deputies and reviewing some portfolios. The costly ministerial Benz could also be replaced by something like a Prado.
Since these ministers are based in Lilongwe and much of their work is done at their Capital Hill offices, the ridiculous fuel entitlements which, I am told, were converted into money benefits, could also be reviewed downwards. The same should apply to all the other perks that do not make sense.
Why should poor Malawians, who can hardly afford three meals a day, be made to pay through the nose for expensive air tickets that enable their ministers—the so-called people’s representatives—to fly first class when their counterparts in donor countries, who give us aid, fly economy?