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Kenyan MPs should initiate policies to benefit the needy

By Alexander Chagema | August 8th 2015

NAIROBI: The Budget and Appropriations Committee was last week presented with two Bills that underscored the disparity between retrogressive and progressive philosophies. Not only did a Bill by Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi seeking to guarantee all former MPs are paid Sh100,000 in pension monthly reaffirm Kenya’s status as an unequal society, it was the biggest manifestation of short-sightedness, avarice and self-gratification.

On the other hand, Kiharu MP Kang’ata Irungu proposed an amendment to the Education Act that would ensure the government sets aside Sh30 billion annually for a school feeding programme to benefit eight million children. With the benefit of hindsight, World Food Programme in the nomadic arid and semi-arid areas of northern Kenya is responsible for sustaining children who would otherwise not have received education. Regrettably, parents from hardship areas are forced to keep their children away from school to assist in the search for food and water.

Approval of Mr Kang’ata’s Motion by Parliament will be a positive step towards eradicating illiteracy. As a matter of fact, high fees, numerous school levies and abject poverty have conspired to keep illiteracy buoyant. In Isiolo, over 10,000 students dropped out of school in the last five years for reasons other than insecurity. Other benefits accruing from such a noble initiative would be job creation, lesser strain on poor families, and markets for local produce. A country that invests in education eliminates vices like crime while making great strides in development.

Conversely, Mr Wamunyinyi feels the pain of former MPs living in ‘abject’ poverty more than his constituents. While speaking of their difficulties, he conveniently forgets about millions of hungry and jobless Kenyans living below the poverty line. MPs don’t deserve preferential treatment; they get good salaries, hefty perks, access to loan facilities, mortgages and impressive medical covers. Why would a person in their privileged positions not invest for the future?

While not entirely objecting to MPs getting pension, it should be based on the existing law and standard practice; previous earning and payslip contributions. Not even the professionals who selflessly serve society and contribute to actual nation building like doctors and teachers earn Sh100,000 a month, yet they easily deserve it. Wouldn’t it be a change from the mundane if MPs sponsored motions that would favour street families, orphans and widows forced into that state by HIV /Aids,the sickly and elderly in society?

It is surprising that the American social security system has never captured the attention of our self-centred legislators. Started in 1935 by President Franklin Roosevelt, it has consistently benefited the elderly and disadvantaged. The disability insurance programmes take care of disabled people aged between 18 and 64 who cannot get gainful employment. By early 1990s only 14 per cent of the over 45 million elderly Americans; more than Kenya’s entire population, were outside social security. Here, the only viable thing for the disabled is begging on the streets. Old age is a dress rehearsal for life in hell. Things are so bad, an elderly woman aged 90 spends time behind bars in Kenya because her tired mind does not understand what contempt of court entails.

The few progressive legislators should consider initiating programmes geared towards providing food, shelter, education, healthcare and stipends for the needy. Kenya is not a poor country; the billions of shillings that a handful of individuals pinch annually could be put to better use if we guillotine sleaze.

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