Our specialists drive services and production; they deserve better pay

 National Wage Bill Conference

Participants during the Third National Wage Bill Conference at the Bomas of Kenya on April 17, 2024.

Photo credit: Wilfred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

The high-level forum held at Bomas last week to discuss Kenya’s wage bill made helpful resolutions. Let’s now implement. However, I would have wished to see it revisit the matter of unequal pay between our experts in various disciplines, and political office holders.

Look at doctors, for instance. We are told that interns, who are considered to be “students under assessment”, should receive a stipend of Sh70,000 ($530) per month. Yet, these are qualified doctors who have undergone specialised medical training for over five years. Come employment, their entry pay isn’t much either. It’s far below what we pay the political class.

But it’s not just the doctors. Our scientists, engineers and a whole lot of other local specialists, including university lecturers, earn mundane packages. All these specialists are paid much less than the political class, and allied appointees.

Little wonder there’s been some gradual loss of specialists from our public service. The imbalance in remuneration accentuates this trend. Our current remuneration profile doesn’t encourage local specialists to last and exert themselves for public interest but to remain on the lookout.

Where opportunity knocks, many would rather serve in the private sector, work in foreign jurisdictions or take up political offices. Indeed, quite a number of specialists have lately opted to serve as Members of County Assembly (MCAs) or Members of Parliament (MPs).

Others are queueing for appointments as Chief Administrative Secretaries (CASs), directors of State agencies and other allied offices that are perceived to pay well, yet without much rigour and demands for measurable outputs.

This doesn’t augur well for Kenya’s growth and future. A good audit of the daily workload of an MCA, MP or CAS will perhaps compare very poorly with that of a health professional, engineer, lecturer and most other specialists. Yet an audit of their lifestyles would easily reveal that there’s gross inequity, and that, where pay is concerned, we could be sending mixed signals.

To send the right message to young learners and our local specialists responsible for propelling Kenya into the fourth industrial revolution in which technology and AI will be master, we need to revisit and recalibrate our remuneration pyramid.

Our best brains, those entrusted with driving our service and productive sectors and moving our research and skills training base, must enjoy commensurate remuneration. These professionals should be seen to be reasonably compensated for their skills and rigour. This will allow them to give their best.

On the other hand, those keen to join the political sector should earn adequate compensation, but not above specialists. With time, such terrain will send the right signals, and diminish the glorification of political offices at the expense of those that drive Kenya’s real growth. Let political offices remain the choice of those who desire to engage in legislating and policy oversight.

Ibrahim Mwathane(Consultant on land governance: [email protected])

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