Centre for Social Concern (CfSC) says it is disappointed by government’s decision to raise subsistence allowances for Cabinet ministers by 80 percent, arguing that this is contrary to the austerity message government has been preaching.

The organisation says in a statement the adjustment undermines the philosophy underpinning the 2012/2013 budget.

CfSC has appealed to President Joyce Banda to stand by the poor and reverse the hike or risk raising suspicions that some people are exempt from the austerity measures.

“…it is thus shocking that while civil servants were denied a meaningful salary raise because of “austerity measures,” ministers are allowed to have such an excessive raise in subsistence allowance.

“For a Cabinet of 31 ministers this [raise] amounts to about K11 160 000 (about $44 640) per month. It is a total erosion of the moral ground on which the 2012/13 budget was premised,” says CfSC in a statement published in this edition of Nation on Sunday.

CfSC said most ministers double as Members of Parliament and, therefore, have no compelling need for the raise.

The NGO said Malawian ministers should take a leaf from their counterparts in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain who voluntarily reduced their perks in solidarity with the general population and in line with their ailing economies.

“We find the argument that ministers ‘are people and deserve a decent accommodation’ quite demeaning to Malawians … and contrary to principles of uMunthu and social justice. Everyone deserves a decent accommodation,” reads the statement.

Government’s spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu said he could not comment on the issue, citing conflict of interest since he is one of the people who have benefitted from adjustment.

Presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane justified the decision, saying the NGO is missing the point.

“You cannot compare Malawian ministers with European ones. The allowances are justified and are actually overdue because hotel rates went up last year. The allowances are to enable the ministers go and perform duties. Should they be grounded?” said Nhlane.

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