President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday reiterated on his stand against increasing teachers’ pay during a televised public address to the nation from State House, arguing that it’s beyond the country’s means and doing so would grievously hurt the economy.
UNSUSTAINABLE PUBLIC WAGE BILL
Uhuru said that the current public wage bill is unsustainable as it is and maintained that giving in to the 50-60 per cent pay hike demand by teachers would plunge the country in an economic crisis.
“Our public wage bill accounts for 52% of revenue, the global average for middle income nations like ourselves is about 35%, further the public wage bill accounts for about 10% of our GDP, while the global average of about 5%,” Uhuru said.
He further went ahead to statistically defend his decision on the matter first by citing how the 680,000 state officers, who consist 1.5 % of the population) consumed 52% in wages (Sh 568billion) of the 1.1 trillion raised in revenue last year and argued that if the government was to raise the salaries for teachers, the public wage bill would cost 61% of all revenues collected.
“If the award was to be paid, we would have to find additional sh118 billion to meet the salary and pension obligation of the award,” he said adding that the government would also be forced to raise VAT from the current 16 to 22per cent, borrow money or suspend critical development programmes or essential critical services if the demand to pay teachers more was to be met, which would result in a high cost of living, slow down the economy and increase unemployment rates.
The decision, he argued, would also force the salaries and remuneration commission (SRC) to harmonize wages across the civil service sector
“I DID NOT DISOBEY THE SUPREME COURT”
Uhuru was also keen to address the accusations from different quarters and especially the opposition, that he was disregarding the rule of law by not obeying orders of the Supreme Court with regards to the teachers’ salary row.
“Contrary to the assertion in the public domain, Supreme Court did not make any determination regarding the award; it decided only that it lacked the jurisdiction to hear an application challenging the exercise or discretion of the Court of Appeal,” he said.
KENYAN TEACHERS AMONG BEST PAID IN AFRICA
The president also said that Kenyan teachers are among the best paid in the continent.
“55% of all teachers employed by the TSC earn between Ksh 35,000-Ksh 75,000, which is significantly higher than their counterparts in the private sectors,”
Teachers’ salaries are also higher than those of their counterparts in the region. Kenyan teachers earn seven times more than their counterparts in Burundi. In Uganda, the President said, the lowest-earning teacher gets Sh7, 600, while in Tanzania; a teacher at the same level earns Sh15, 800.
The government made the unprecedented move last week on Friday when it revised the closing dates for this term, ordering the closure of not just public but private schools as well today, owing to a three week teachers’ strike that had crippled education in the public sector.
KENYANS REACT TO UHURU’S SPEECH
Kenyans elicited mixed reactions on the president’s address and took to social media under the hashtag #EducationCrisis to air their views.
Eddie Mwangi: Kenya economy is 100 times bigger than that of Burundi,4 times of UG & 3 times that of TZ. Let’s talk of politician’s salaries #EducationCrisis.
Tender Ooko : Dear Uhuru, instead of comparing teacher’s salary in East Africa, please compare the MPs salaries n realize how much we waste #EducationCrisis.
Mugo Kibati : This #EducationCrisis should be a wakeup call for a no-holds barred comprehensive review of the entire public sector wage structure &levels.
Vincent Chepkwony: we lost 791m alone at NYS! Plug the holes Mr. President and we shall have enough money for teachers, police, doctors’ etc. #EducationCrisis
Fiona: Teachers need performance contracts. That should be reviewed from time to time. Pay rise should be based on those contracts. #EducationCrisis.