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Kenyan President Rejects Three-Fold Basic Pay Increase

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has turned down a pay package that would have seen him earning more than U.S. President George Bush. Many Kenyans, who had been calling for Mr. Kibaki to reject the pay package, Thursday expressed relief that he did so.

A researcher with the think tank Institute for Policy Analysis and Research, Tiberius Barasa, tells VOA many Kenyans are relieved that Mr. Kibaki rejected the pay raise.

"He considered the public reaction, and he realized that it's not actually right to take the offer while we have so many other issues pending and so many people in need. In the past one week, people have reacted negatively and even asking him to reject the offer," said Barasa.

Last week, the Kenyan parliament voted to give the president an almost three-fold increase in basic pay.

Mr. Kibaki would have earned almost $28,000 a month in basic pay, up from almost $10,000 a month.

Including allowances, Mr. Kibaki's income each month would have been more than $44,000. President Bush earns around $400,000 a year, which works out to a little more than $33,000 per month.

Parliament, which adjourned indefinitely last week, delayed making a decision on increasing the allowances of the house speaker, cabinet ministers and members of parliament.

In a statement he released Wednesday, Mr. Kibaki thanked parliament for the offer, but said he could not accept the money because of what he called "priority projects in need of urgent funding."

"It is imperative that remuneration due to public officers be a true reflection of the economic and social times of the nation," he said.

Analyst Barasa says he thinks accepting the pay package would have damaged Mr. Kibaki's reputation ahead of next year's elections.

"If he accepted the offer, the implication would be that more people probably may lose some sort of confidence in him and try to question his motives," Barasa said.

The pay raise offer comes at a time when 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.

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

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

According to United Nations figures, 71 percent of urban Kenyans live in slums, most of which do not have access to electricity or clean running water.