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So MPs want to quit?

So MPs want to quit?

Parliament has about 400 members and half them roughly means some 200 MPs no longer find legislating on behalf of the electorate a juicy undertaking.Indeed, if it weren’t for the burden of by-elections, we all would have said good riddance. But with the cost of a by-election standing at 19bn/- that means 200 of them would cost a whooping 3.8tr/-, enough money to give all our school age children quality education.

To understand the MPs’ grievances, two basic questions beg for answers. One, is Dodoma really that much expensive and two, are MPs extremely underpaid? The answer for both questions is no. Luckily, Dodoma is one of the major food producing areas of our country. The region is famous for organic maize, groundnuts and livestock keeping.

The cost of living is usually a factor of food inflation for which Dodoma has one of the lowest indices in the country. That MPs are lowly paid is also a matter of conjecture. They probably are compared with their counterparts in Kenya but that is a different dimension altogether. Due to a combination of factors, MPs in Kenya are among the most highly paid lawmakers in the world.

Our MPs have got to consider matters according to the environment they operate in. Ms Makinda revealed their basic pay as 2.3m/- per month for which they have to pay 700,000/-as Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax. Agreed, that is pretty small but they should also consider the fact that what they pay in direct taxes is almost the basic salary of a doctor.The real reason the MPs feel frustrated about is the slashing of their sitting allowance from

230, 000/- per day to the original 70,000/- per day after the public complained bitterly about the legislators paying themselves seemingly hefty pecks while ordinary members of society wallowed in hardship and President Jakaya Kikwete asked parliament to reconsider  the decision to hike the allowances.

Perhaps it is time to also ask whether we have too big a House. For example, Uttar Pradesh in India has 200 million people, a population roughly five times larger than Tanzania’s. However, the wealthy state has only 404 members of its lower house, the Vidhan Sabha and 108 members in the Vidhan Parishad or Upper House in its bicameral system of the legislature.

In Tanzania, MPs do not carry equal weight in terms of the constituents they represent. Some have up to close to half a million voters and others as little as 3,000 people only. That system will probably have to be looked at critically in the coming constitutional debate, including the creation of a permanent “Delimitation Commission” that would decide the size of the constituencies from time to time according to population dynamics.

Right now, some constituencies appear to have been created as political favours only, something that increases the cost of running the legislative arm of government resulting into the MPs getting the peanuts they complain about.Some MPs of course, have since distanced themselves from Speaker Makinda’s bombshell revelation but the fact is, she could not have also concocted the idea.

In the long term, the MPs have done themselves and their parties a disservice. We can only assume due to massive parliamentary majority, that most of those MPs come from the ruling CCM. They are now a frustrated lot, which means they will continue in parliament not for reasons of genuinely serving the people but bidding their time until the current comes to the end.

Ms Makinda too took that opportunity to request her constituents to allow her to retire as she has served them long enough. She is not the first to make that statement. Others before her did it. Some honoured their word while others somersaulted into the House. The assumption then was that there was much profit in being a member of parliament, including carrying the prefix Honourable so and so, a privilege not enjoyed by lesser mortals.  

Now we know the seats in parliament are not that much lined by valances, the reason perhaps for the rampant absenteeism and snoring. Ironically, it is the parliamentarians themselves more than anyone else who can make life better for us all by performing diligently their supervisory role of the executive arm of government.  If they too join the legion of those complaining, then it is perhaps time too to reassess our democracy.

A largely ignorant population finds it extremely hard to produce quality leaders. Perhaps, it is time again that those seeking to represent the people in the various levels and roles of leadership were subjected to rigorous scrutiny by the people to gauge their levels of commitment to public leadership as opposed to serving self interests. 

At least the Chairman of the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP) Mr Augustine Mrema has said he is not among those thinking to resign because he is now getting even that little, which he was not making outside the august House after years of “roasting in the sun.” He depicts the other extreme end of those serving the self. He and many others like him are no better sitting in parliament than they were outside!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: Mboneko Munyaga

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