By Ojwang’ Ndege
When Deputy President William Ruto revealed that the Jubilee government plans to ‘review’ salaries of civil servants, long serving government workers were reminded of a period which is synonymous with the rise of the same same William Samoei Arap Â Ruto, and a coterie of others, in what history records as YK-92.
That Ruto, like President Uhuru, is a wealthy man is not in doubt. Even as he claimed the government wage bill is unsustainable, Ruto recently shocked the political world when he hired five helicopters for a political event in the Rift Valley.
Ruto’s wealth, it is believed, was amassed at a time the country was recording negative economic growth. As a youth winger for KANU’s 1992 elections, Ruto and others, who include Cyrus Jirongo, were the new face of Kenya’s wealthy youths.
They had money, drove in ‘good’ cars in town and begin a quick trajectory to the millionaires club. They learnt how to do “business” with the government.
The result was the punitive fiscal policies put forth by the World Bank and the IMF to save Kenya from collapse. Workers were retrenched in their thousands, students lost government funding and quality of education and healthcare in the public sector slummed to its lowest ebb.
Ruto and KANU cliques, however, became extremely wealthy, amassing the wealth of hard working citizens, destroying families who could neither afford to educate their children nor offer proper healthcare. In its wake, the fight to eradicate poverty, ignorance and disease was effectively destroyed.
Infant mortality rates and maternal care both became disasters.Â It would take the defeat of KANU in 2003 for Kenya’s economy to begin recording positive economic growth.
As Ruto announced a spate of reviews on civil servant salaries yet the government, through the Sarah Serem Salaries and Remuneration Commission has kept on increasing salaries of politicians, the road ahead for workers is so similar to the 90s.
The problem with Kenyans is the thinking that these things cannot happen in this era. Too often, the failure by the Jubilee government is clothed in anti-western or anti-opposition rhetoric. If not the two entities, civil societies complete the equation.
The Jubilee government has failed to rein in politicians, both in its stable and the opposition. If the government is serious about reducing wage bill, it is not the civil servants to target, but the politicians.
From the national assembly, the senate and all the county assemblies, the current wage is bloated as a result of this huge number, with huge salaries which do not reflect the production capacity of the country.
Already, the government does not employ. Job freeze only ensures more people leaving academic institutions and tertiary colleges cannot get jobs. Little money is left for development meaning the economy is not creating new jobs.
As such, the option is for the government to turn to donor funds, yet the Jubilee alliance has this “sovereignty claptrap” which makes it equate the donor funds to ‘neo-colonialism’. Most donor organizations, with the increased chest-thumping, are not honoring their pledges.
The other non- state sector, civil societies and non-governmental organizations, are under the Jubilee tyranny with recent parliamentary meddling. CBOs and NGOs are also cash-trapped as donors are keeping off.
A ballooning wage bill, a recalcitrant government, a poor country swinging dangerously in the vicious cycle of poverty.
History is repeating itself as a tragedy.Â Workers retrenchment must be opposed!