Be ready to take a pay cut — you’re earning too much.
This was President Uhuru Kenyatta’s parting shot to MPs in his final State of the Nation address before August polls.
“We must always remember the calling of leadership is to serve. Not to become rich through serving,” Uhuru said in an hour-and-a-half-long speech.
“We have kept the promise,” he kept repeating, reciting 2013 election pledges fulfilled.
The chamber was full, indicating many opposition lawmakers decided to listen instead of boycott. Last year they blew whistles and were thrown out. This year there were three standing ovations, including one for the pay cut.
Uhuru said a report from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission means reduced pay for elected leaders from August.
“As politicians, we must accept our ever-increasing salaries and allowances have contributed to unsustainable demands by other public sector cadres to increase their own remuneration, at the expense of our people and development,” he said.
Uhuru said the interim report recommends rationalisation of salaries and allowances for senior state officers, public servants and elected officials, from MCA all the way to the President.
“That will result in reduction in salaries and allowances for those elected in August. As your President and a Kenyan, I fully support the recommendations and call upon all of us to adopt them,” he said.
Uhuru highlighted the ballooning wage bill consuming half the revenue collected.
The President said government was spending Sh627 billion annually on salaries and allowances of 700,000 public officers, including elected leaders.
“Fifty 50 per cent of all money collected as revenue goes into the pockets of less than 2 per cent of the total population. For the last two decades, there has been a spiralling of the wage bill fueled by incessant strikes, go-slows and outright neglect of duties,” Uhuru said.
The President’s comments come a day after doctors in public health facilities ended a three-month strike for better pay, terms and working conditions.
Striking public university lecturers ended their two-month strike on Monday, after the government committed an additional Sh10 billion to their pay.
Uhuru said SRC recommendations will help contain the wage bill and allow the commission to review salaries of all national and county public servants and improve terms of the lowest cadres.
“These recommendations will allow us to pay more attention to our medical professionals, teachers, policemen, prisons officers and many others who also need adequate compensation for their services. Most importantly, we will be respecting the wishes of our own employers, the wananchi,” Uhuru said.
He added he is knows every politician fears he or she will end their political careers destitute, like many public servants in the past.
But public service comes before personal interest, Uhuru said.
The President highlighted government achievements, repeating, “We have kept our promise.”
He also told the judiciary to stop interfering in poll preparations and urged Kenyans to maintain peace.
“Elections are a one-time event but Kenya is larger than all of us and shall, and must remain. Those seeking office must desist from utterances that may divide Kenyans along ethnic, religious or other lines,” the President said.
Uhuru said Jubilee has delivered on its promises of education, security, devolution, health, the economy and infrastructure.
“Let me conclude by reaffirming the state of the nation is strong. We have kept our promise in ensuring we have developed the country, to establish a base for rapid growth, sustainable shared prosperity and job creation,” he said.
Uhuru paid tribute to Kenyan soldiers who died in Somalia, saying their deaths were not in vain. He requested a moment of silence.
He said the state has invested heavily invested in internal security but added the country was still confronted by lawlessness and banditry in parts of North Rift and Laikipia.
The government will not condone blatant violation of constitutional rights, which hurt foreign investment, he said.
“This administration will use all means at its disposal to pursue and bring to justice all those involved in causing this mayhem. I warn politicians in affected areas to stop incitement to any form of violence. You will be held to account,” the President warned.
On infrastructure, Uhuru received a standing ovation when he invited MPs to join him in June for the first ride on the standard gauge railway.
He said Jubilee, as promised, has constructed 1,950km roads; 7,000km are under construction.
In 2013, Jubilee promised electricity to 70 per cent of households by the end of 2017.
“Today, we have connected an additional 3.7 million new homes to electricity, more than doubling the connections since independence,” the President said.
Connecting 14,045 more schools to the National Grid means more than 98 per cent of all public primary schools have electricity.
Prior to 2013,only the four referral hospitals had equipment for X-rays and dialysis.
“Four years later, through the innovative Managed Equipment Services program, 92 hospitals across all counties have been equipped with modern diagnostic equipment,” the President said.