EDITORIAL: Sh1.5bn pension allocation a misstep by Treasury

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EDITORIAL: Sh1.5bn pension allocation a misstep by Treasury

Raila Odinga.
The Treasury has set aside Sh1.5 billion to cater for the retirement benefits of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and retired Vice-Presidents. FILE PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG 

After years of push and pull about release of their pensions, finally former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former vice-Presidents and other top officials, will, in months, start enjoying elaborate perks after the Treasury budgeted for Sh1.5 billion under that vote.

Already Mr Odinga and former VP Kalonzo Musyoka are earning Sh200,000 in perks ahead of the lavish payments that will retire the ongoing arrangement.

Under the budgetary allocation, Mr Odinga and Mr Musyoka will get a one-off payment of about Sh8 million, more than Sh700,000 monthly, more than Sh100,000 for fuelling the many cars that the taxpayer will be providing. They will also be having many aides.

Other former State officials who are entitled to similar perks are the then Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, former Speakers of the National Assembly and Senate. All of them, for lack of a more accurate assessment, will be living like kings in retirement. Indeed, a number of them have officially applied for the payments after the political temperatures cooled under the deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his former rival Raila.

While premiers, VPs or CJs are no ordinary offices and former holders of such positions deserve to have aides, offices, and security, pampering them while the economy can hardly afford to provide jobs and ensure all and sundry afford meals is a misstep both by the Treasury and these former top officials. While they were known to condemn State largesse as reformists, it is appears this is their turn to enjoy what they have perhaps missed as opposition politicians and reform architects.

On May 1, while the worker expected a raise of the minimum wage, they ended up empty-handed, something that should warn Mr Odinga and the rest that it should not be business as usual.

While the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics put GDP growth for 2018 at 6.3 percent, employers were already panting for air in a complex business environment that can hardly afford enhanced salaries.

For the ordinary folk whose welfare should the focus of leaders, the cost of living measure went up from 4.35 percent in March to 6.58 percent last month, the highest level in 17 months. It would therefore be wrong for the same leaders to live large, shrugging off the near-servitude life the farm worker, the Jua Kali man, the teacher, and handcart pusher fighting for space on the congested city roads with the equally struggling matatu crew.

Now, if the ordinary person cannot get their entitlement, the same should extend to these retirees, who, are being treated differently, reflecting the Animal Farm situation where some were more equal than the rest. It is unacceptable.

While their pension is in the law and other rules, it was insensitive of the Treasury to unlock these juicy payments running into billions while key sectors are starving of the much-needed budget enhancement.

Worse, the Sh1.5 billion haul will grow to Sh2 billion from July 2020, surpassing the Sh1 billion allocated for constructing affordable homes or Sh1.5 billion for constituency transformers, Sh400 million for cancer centres and Sh300 million for Uwezo Fund lending.

The pension rules are not cast in stone, and staggering these payments would very well mirror the norm at the Treasury where expenditures are either delayed or programmes stopped to give way for the more urgent and essential expenditure.

This budgetary allocation for super pensions is one that should be reviewed and its implementation reconsidered until the economy can carry such “hefty” weight according to Treasury mandarins.

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