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Kenyan President Awarded Almost Three-Fold Pay Increase

Kenya's parliament late Thursday awarded an almost three-fold basic pay increase to President Mwai Kibaki, a move heavily criticized by opposition politicians. It comes as civil servants are striking for better pay, floods are ravaging parts of the country, and more than half of all Kenyans live on less than two dollars a day. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

The Kenyan president will now earn about $28,000 a month in basic pay, up from almost $10,000 a month previously.

Including allowances, Kibaki's total income each month is now more than $45,000.

But parliament, which was adjourned indefinitely late Thursday, delayed making a decision on increasing the allowances of the house speaker, Cabinet ministers and members of parliament.

Tiberius Barasa, a researcher with the Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, tells VOA many Kenyans believe that the performance of the president and government has not met expectations.

He says that, last year, only five bills were passed in parliament, and that civil servants have been lobbying for pay increases all year.

He said, "Recently, we have had the [university] lecturers asking for pay increases, and that has not been addressed appropriately by the government. The negotiations are still on."

"The teachers are still asking for their pay rise, regarding the agreement that they entered into with the government in 2003. It would be appropriate for the government to consider the issue of harmonizing all the salaries and pay packages for the civil servants," he added.

The average primary school teacher earns about $130 a month, while a university lecturer earns about $1,200 a month.

Meanwhile, the country has been hard hit by flooding.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Thursday asked donors for almost $22 million to help some 723,000 people affected by the floods.

VOA was unable to contact the government spokesman for comment, and officials in the finance and president's office were unavailable for comment.

When discussing the president's pay increase, the trade minister was quoted Thursday as saying he supported the motion because, in his words, "we must give the institution of the presidency the respect and dignity it deserves."

He and several others said some civil servants and members of parliament earn more than the president.

The approved and proposed increases come at a time when more than half of all Kenyans live on less than two dollars a day. According to U.N. figures, 71 percent of urban Kenyans live in slums, and most of them do not have access to electricity or clean running water.