Despite coronavirus wreaking havoc on the Malawi economy and depressed revenue, Members of Parliament (MPs) have handed themselves an inflation-busting a huge increases in salaries and allowance, bringing their salary bill to almost K3.4 billion in the current fiscal year from K2.4 billion in the 2019 /20 fiscal year.
Even in the wake of 2020/21 national budget having an overall fiscal balance deficit of K651.5 billion – which is 9.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) -,allowances or MPs have also increased to K5 billion from K2.2 billion in the previous fiscal year.
It means now each legislator will get an extra K1.1 million in allowances per month.
The increase was discussed at Parliamentary Service Commission which unanimously agreed that legislators pay be increased from K862 4000 in basic salary to K948 640 00, allowances for housing which were at K200 000, K400 000 on constituency allowance and K250 000 for motor vehicle maintenance have also increased.
They were also getting K150 000 as hospitality allowance and K150 000 for utility bills. The allowances totalled K1 151 860 per month but with the K1.1 million add on, the allowances have now moved to K2.2 million a month.
Parliament spokesman Ian Mwenye could not immediately comment on the matter.
But commentators who spoke to Nyasa Times noted that that the increase is outlandish, inappropriate and has to be reversed as 193 people from one arm of government – the legislature – will be swimming in opulence at the expenses of impoverished Malawians, majority who are languishing in abject poverty.
Economics lecturer at the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi Betchani Tchereni said the pay rise is ‘inappropriate’ while unemployment is rising.
He said, “it’s a privilege in many ways to serve the country.”
Centre for Financial Inclusion and Literacy Consultancy executive director Abel Mwenibanda said government must exercise “restraint” in pay awards’ at a time when many Malawians are facing economic uncertainty.
He said this would sends the “wrong message” and highlights the economic divide in the country.
President Lazarus Chakwera is yet to put his seal of approval on the pay hike and it will be seen if he will allow the pay rise that MPs should be prospering themselves amid the huge economic uncertainties affecting many Malawians.