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Friday, 1 August 2008

A glimpse of the future?

It is interesting that the first major decision of the Rupiah Banda led Cabinet (as the President remains incapacitated) is an inflation busting pay rise , at the very time when inflation appears out of control (now standing at 12.6%). According to documents obtained by the Post, while the President was incapacitated the Cabinet approved a 15% salary increment for constitutional office holders. Cabinet also approved the introduction of a Responsibility Allowance, which shall be paid to the President, Vice-President and the rest of the cabinet. They also approved increments in the rates of allowances currently being paid to ministers, deputy ministers and senior governmentofficials by 50% of basic salary for housing allowance and 100 % for telephone, cellphone, water and electricity allowances.

When people said the government should get on with the business of governing and not bury their head in the sand, am sure this is not what they had in mind. Perhaps the Cabinet does not think the President will be coming back and now they plan to fatten their pockets before a possible election. I thought the government was supposed to be setting the example in keeping inflationary expectations under control? If you are a civil servant and you see the cabinet approving such huge increases, you would be foolish not to demand the same.

The reason given is also strange : "the proposed increase of salaries and allowances would help to bridge the gap between political leaders and senior government officials and those of private members of parliament and chief executives in grant-aided institutions.... The disparities in conditions of service are so big that some chief executives of some statutory bodies like the Bank of Zambia basic salaries could pay two to three ministers' salaries per month..." Are these ministers not MPs? Also where in the world do ministerial salaries always have to match other companies or bodies? People should earn according to the job they do, not simply to equate them to others. The underlying principle for the increment is wrong. They should look for another reason that might convince our poorest people living on less $1 a day and barely trying to survive rising fuel costs and food prices.

Update (02/08/2008):
Fantastic to see the Leader of the Opposition making exactly the same points, in the
Saturday Post. This really is a disgraceful move by the Cabinet to award themselves such hefty increases.

Update (03/08/2008):
More condemnation from church bodies and trade unions. Including this funny statement from Nonde: "it is wrong for senior government officials to try and equate their conditions of service to those obtaining in the private sector, as the government does not generate any profits."


  1. WHOA !

    That's crazy.

    The "justification" is crazy.
    The fact that it's limited to elected official and senior government official is crazy.
    The fact that they feel the need to adjust their own wages to inflation (and actually beyond) is crazy.

    I think the US got it right. Whatever pay increase the congress votes is implimented after an election. That should put in constitutions all over Africa.

    And meanwhile, in Ivory Coast, ministers and MPs took a pay cut to pay for a gasoline subsidy a few weeks ago.

    While I don't think it's the smartest thing to do, at least it's honest.

  2. Banda and Mulongoti are positioning themselves, with these policy statements.

  3. "While I don't think it's the smartest thing to do, at least it's honest." - Random was "politically smart"! That subsidy probably saved them from a few stones and ensured re-election...but then again, elections in the Ivory Coast is an oxymoron.

    "Banda and Mulongoti are positioning themselves, with these policy statements." - Mrk

    I don't think Banda can stand as President. Wasn't he born outside Zambia?

    What I think Rupiah is doing is ruling by appeasement. Basically, the VP has no power to sack anyone, even when he is acting President. So the only way he can get things done is through positive incentives like giving them perks.

    Zambia's constitution really has tied the man's hands. He can't do anything apart from complaining like you and me!

  4. Cho-

    Thanks for highlighting this sinister plunder of public resources.
    I have always wondered if there is ever be an end to this flimsy terms- "sitting","visiting", "hardship","out of pocket" "driving" and now "responsibility" whatever that means ( the cost of Ruphiah Banda performing the responsibilities of a incapacitated President?).

    Also bearing cultural sensitivity of discussing the sick, at what point does the constitution warrant/trigger normalization/redress in the case of an incapacitated President?
    God forbid but would the status quo continue for a year?
    Ariel Sharon has not been declared dead but Isreal appointed a Prime Minister, may have another soon!
    My medical peers have stated that whatever the outcome it is unlikely that Mwanawasa will retain his full capabilities given what has happened to him in the past.
    The status quo serves Banda and other with self interests well, they will keep shuttling to Paris and scheming new terms of paying themselves more money.

  5. Kashikulu,

    ”Also bearing cultural sensitivity of discussing the sick, at what point does the constitution warrant/trigger normalization/redress in the case of an incapacitated President? God forbid but would the status quo continue for a year?”

    This could go on for a long time because the constitution does not set a time limit on how long before cabinet can decide. The constitution not say WHEN the medical board should be constituted. It just tells you the procedure of how a President can be removed from duty. So its not an issue of law, its now an issue of political judgement. This is what I have always said. And of course Rupiah and co will not move on this issue until more political pressure is exerted.

    I think PF and others should now just concentrate on getting their house in order. Forcing a presidential bye-election (or general election?) now could be a gamble. They need to organise themselves first.

    What puzzles me is what Rupiah’s job is. He cannot fire anyone because he has no such power since he cannot reverse anything the President has done. He is just there as a spokesperson for the cabinet. Ministers actually have more power than Rupiah at the moment. No joke. The only thing Rupiah controls is the Office of the Vice President and projects there.


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