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In Malawi, the Government and Members of Parliament are at Odds

In Malawi, the government and members of parliament are at odds over the parliament’s threat to reject the 2006/2007 budget if members’ salaries are not increased. But Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe says the government cannot afford salary increases. Mark Katsonga Phiri is a member of parliament from the Peoples Progressive Movement (PPM). He explains to VOA English to Africa reporter James Butty the reasons behind the parliament’s demand for salary increases.

“In every administration, salaries have to be reviewed for different sectors. So we made a proposal that our salaries have to be reviewed because it is now almost one and a half to two years since we had our salaries adjusted. So we are now negotiating between what my sub-committee recommended and what the minister finance says they can give us.”

Katsonga Phiri says the parliament is not trying to hold the country hostage by its demands.

“For your information, I sit in the parliamentary committee on public appointments, and one of our responsibilities is reviewing salaries for the whole civil service at senior levels. Now we have been looking at salaries for all the majority of departments. I don’t know why MPs (member of parliament) should be excluded. So our demands are not extraordinary.”

But finance minister Goodall Gondwe says the government cannot afford salary increases for members of parliament.

“The government position is that we are unable to agree to a salary increase of 71 percent that they are asking for because the judges are asking for even higher. Then the fallout would be that everybody in government would be asking for salary increases. And [we] just cannot afford it.”

Gondwe dismisses the MPs’ argument that they should not be treated differently from other civil servants.

“Two years ago we made them a salary benchmark and their salaries were doubled from 112 Kwachas to 258 Kwachas…Now if we were to raise the MP salaries by 71 percent, we will have to start a new cycle altogether and the salaries will explode in this country.”

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