NAIROBI — Kenyan members of parliament, already among the world's best-paid legislators, voted on Tuesday to increase their salaries in defiance of government plans to cut them as part of public spending reforms.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, who won a closely fought March 4 election on an economic growth agenda, has implored lawmakers to accept pay cuts and help rein in public sector salaries to free up cash to create jobs.
"We do have the requisite number and quorum to pass that motion," Joyce Laboso, the deputy speaker of the assembly said, after MPs on both sides of the house voted overwhelmingly for higher pay.
The president has no direct power to determine MP salaries, and the legislators' decision is expected to be challenged in court by civic rights groups.
The lawmakers' move to overturn a reduction in their pay decided by the state Salaries and Remuneration Commission has caused grassroots anger that has led to street protests. But lawmakers argued that the pay cut was imposed illegally.
"They have taken away our dignity and we must reclaim it," member of parliament Jimmy Angwenyi told the assembly, backing a motion to overturn a legal notice slashing their pay and increasing it to more than 130 times Kenya's minimum wage.
That would see MPs earning an average of 851,000 shillings ($10,000) a month, up from the 532,000 set by the commission. The average monthly wage in Kenya is 6,498 shillings ($76).
Kenyatta wants a slimmer government in his hope to deliver on a campaign pledge to achieve double-digit growth.
Kenya's public sector wage bill stands at 50 percent of annual government tax revenue. The International Monetary Fund puts the global benchmark at about 35 percent.