Some animals are more equal

They wrote commandments to guide their newly declared self-government. As the need arose, they changed the guidelines. This time not everybody was involved in the amendment. Only the few select few were. Slowly, the wise representatives appear to make modifications that suit their personal enrichment at the expense of the rest.

The tale could be read in George Orwell’s Animal Farm published in 1958. The book being a fiction, it is evident in today’s societies including here in Malawi how the people we elect into offices gradually forget our problems and concerns and concentrate on their well living being.

At some point in last session of the parliament, precisely in June 2011, Malawian Members of Parliament led by Philomena Kasambwe, proposed a hike in their benefits from K390 000.00 to slightly K1 000 000.00 but the president Mutharika did not assent to it. Even so, it seems the honorable members are wise enough rather to die trying than a failure. On Tuesday, November 15, one Ulemu Chilapondwa, MP for Ntchisi South, justified the move saying what they currently get is pathetic.

MP's salaries up

It is said that Malawian MPs are on the lower side when it comes to salaries. That is the reason no single MP would dare stand on the point of order to stop the adoption of the report from the Public Appointments and Declaration of Asserts Committee.

So, should the president approve it this time, the basic salary will rise with 75 percent from K126 000.00. In addition they will not walk home with 500 liters of fuel, K 100 000.00 housing allowance, K10 000.00 hospitality allowance among others.

With the current rising in the cost of living, MPs know how desperately they need the adjustment. Besides, they work for and on our behalf. They make the laws that guide us (only in this article, let us chose to forget of the so branded ‘draconian laws’) and individually assist with their campaign football leagues.

Just as in the book cited above, they deserve the comfort that none of the electorate could have, so they think. Or else how would they come up with the brilliant developmental projects and sound policies if we share same condition of living in our squatters of Ndirande, Ntandire and Chibavi?

Did we not hear one asking us why Chief Executive Officers of a small companies get more that the do?

Therefore, they just want their benefits to be above any average worker and match with their fellow colleagues elsewhere. That is irrespective of the work done, I suppose. However, is it not obvious that we are talking of different scenarios here?

Firstly, it is the same task but done in different environment. Our MPs are not justified that rise considering our economy. Tobacco sales these years have been so terrible. The donors are in a punishing mood, and zero-deficit budget is failing.

Secondly, the said CEOs have a different way of getting in their revenues. They increase their productions, while cutting the cost hence making profits to share among the workers. On the other hand, the elected MPs get their salaries from the taxpayers. Therefore, the increase should be a reflection on what happens to the workers on the ground.

However, there is splendor of being in the legislative body, especially at this time the country is going through social and economic instability. You know which buttons to push to soar above the storms. However, when MPs and any elected official are as wise as we think they are, why do they put their interest at the expense of others?

They know better that our economy is in the doldrums and every Malawian is feeling the squeeze. Southern Bottlers is failing to produce the needed soft drinks due to forex scarcity. They cannot buy the raw materials. The same is said of many companies. Productions in many industries are cut. Students are failing to sit for international exams. They cannot access forex to pay ABMA/ABE (or you name them) the pounds as banks run out of the same. The chronicle would be endless.

While every citizen knows that our MPs work for our good, or we suppose they do, and that they deserve better perquisites, this psychological conditioning can always be challenged with the worsening poverty levels. The rise in the price of fuel consequently has raised bus fares, basic commodities and cost of living in general, while the basic salaries stay put.

The husband sleeps at the fuel tank; the wife spent the whole night waiting for the first drop of water at the tap. Children cry in the dark. All these are visible by our esteemed representatives in Lilongwe’s new parliament building. Perhaps they cannot feed us while they are hungry. We wait and see.

However, history has shown how predictable our leaders are when it comes to unpredictability. As much as they get the daily K20 000.00 allowances, all travel in business class, diplomatic passports extended to their spouses, the mission is complete.

As in the book where a group of certain animals imposed more control while reserving privileges for themselves, self-centeredness makes lives of the others harder. The same should be under check. The truth is that not all Malawian would make it to parliament, make the needed laws, amendments, and discuss how to curb the current social and economical problems. The same should have given the privilege few to show the nation that they elected the best and can think on behalf and in the interest of all.

Just as MPs feel they need a rise in their income so do the people they represent. As one honorable member walks home with K10 000.00 hospitality allowances, so distressed are his people looking for painkillers at the sickbay. The above should be commonsense wisdom before the Civil Service Trade Union and other workers threaten to stage an industrial relation on government’s resistance in revisiting their salaries.

Whether in the next budget session or in the mid-term budget review, when the MPs salaries are revised, so should be of all taxpayers.

The only problem is that while Malawians understand that we achieved independence from the British in mid 1960s, and then defeated the one party regime to have ourselves democracy, where equality and equity should be the order of the day, we realize some of us are equal to the rest.

The author is a holder of a Bachelors Degree in Social Science attained at UNIMA’s Chancellor College. Likes to comment on national issues.

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