Malawi President Joyce Banda has turned down a Parliamentary Service Commission proposal to increase MPs basic pay by 137 percent. Instead, the MPs have been given a 28 percent basic pay hike from K126 000 (about $504) to K150 000 (about $600) which is still higher than what the govt is giving others where the highest has been given 25 percent.

Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda confirmed the development in a telephone interview from South Africa, but Secretary to the Treasury Randson Mwadiwa said he is not aware of the matter.

“You remember government announced an average of 21 percent increase for all public servants? We are part of that arrangement,” said the Speaker. But Mwadiwa, in-charge of the public purse, said: “I am not aware of any increase of such magnitude to MPs.” In June, the Parliamentary Service Commission wrote Treasury asking for a 137 percent basic pay hike which would have seen MPs basic pay jump to K300 000 (about $1 200). In turn, Treasury forwarded the request to President Banda for approval as per provisions of the Parliamentary Emoluments Act which empowers the President to decide MPs’ perks. The June request from Parliament also proposed increments on other non-taxable benefits which would have seen MPs packages jump by 50 percent from K581 500 (about $2 326) to K875 000 (about $3 500) making their total monthly wage bill rise to K168 875 000 (about $675 500) from K112 229 500 (about $448 918).

“Currently, only the basic pay has been affected, the rest of our proposals will be discussed later,” said Chimunthu Banda. Parliament has 193 seats, currently with 191 members because of two vacancies in Mzimba. In June, Finance Minister Ken Lipenga announced an average of 21 percent salary increase for all civil servants which saw the lowest paid cadre getting 46 percent, and the highest got 16 percent. Although MPs are ideally supposed to stay in their constituencies, they receive a tax free housing allowance which is currently at K45 000 (about $180). They proposed a 122 percent hike to K100 000 (about $400). MPs also wanted their tax free motor vehicle maintenance allowance raised by 10 percent from the current K250 000 (about $1 000) to K275 000 (about $1 100). They currently receive a tax free constituency allowance of K60 000 (about $240), which they wanted increased by 67 percent to K100 000. The MPs did not propose changes to their tax-free utility allowance currently at K100 000. Since the 49 percent devaluation of the kwacha in May, there has been many strikes with workers both in the private and public sectors demanding salary increments by various percentages.

The matter took a turn for the worse two weeks ago when it was revealed that the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) had raised accommodation allowances by 80 percent. To some, this was an indication that government cannot use the justification of lack of resources to stop workers from striking. Some of the sectors that went on strike are lecturers and support staff at the University of Malawi, Blantyre Water Board and Lilongwe Water Board.

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