South Sudan wages: MPs demand for pay rise of “$10,000” per month is reasonable

Posted: June 14, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Economy, Junub Sudan, Philip Thon Aleu

By Philip Thon Aleu, Juba, South Sudan

Thursday, June 14, 2018 (PW) —- A debate has been ignited by resignation of SPLM Chief Whip, Hon. Atem Garang de Kuek, reportedly over Transitional National Legislative Assembly (TNLA) demand for 100% pay rise. This represents an opportunity to scrutinize public staff wages. I will discuss the relationship between low pay and corruption, the value of current wages relative to market prices of good and services, and I will suggest ways forward.

Wages Vs Market price

The members of TNLA, to their credit, have openly disclosed their monthly wages as 9,000 SSP (about $30 at the current exchange rate of $1=300 SSP). According to publicly available data from previous financial years budget documents, wages for constitutional post-holders range from 5,000 SSP (for states MPs) to about 20,000 SSP (national Ministers & state governors), translating to about $16.7 (minimum) to $66.7 (maximum) at the current black market exchange rate. Before devaluation of SSP in December 2015, the above wages were reasonable.

At average official exchange rate of $1=3SSP before December 2015, our politicians were among the best paid individuals on the African continent. 5,000 SSP was $1,667, 9,000 SSP ($3,000) and 20,000 SSP ($6,667) for states MPs, National MPs and Governor’s and National Ministers respectively. (If the information publicly available is authentic. kindly note that there is no official public knowledge of how much South Sudan politicians are paid in this country but TNLA MPs disclosure is an opportunity to investigate public wages).

Now the MPs are asking for a pay rise from $30 to $2,000. The media is wrongly reporting $10,000 as the pay rise demanded by MPs. The truth is that the MPs initially wanted equivalent of 9,000 SSP before devaluation of SSP in December 2015 i.e $3,000 as shown above. As a compromise, the MPs settled on $2,000 but was not tabled in parliament due to intimidation from the executive and sequence resignation of Hon. Atem in protest.

He opposes the pay rise and is quoted in the media to be asking for pay rise across the board, including soldiers, teachers and nurses. The MPs actually have no objection to increasing all public servants pay rise. Even if they don’t want to rise salaries for teachers, soldiers and nurses, their cries for pay rise represents an opportunity for us to lobby them and reach an agreement. I’m sure they need the money as everyone else does.

The opposition to pay rise comes from the executive who insisted that there is no money, according to parliamentary sources. (I have seen how the SSBC TV, private radio stations and newspapers are not giving the MPs a chance to say their part of story. The government TV did a poor job on June 13 by allowing the President, First Vice President, Vice President and SPLM acting SG to challenge the MPs without airing a single response from the legislators. Such disinformation is not only journalistically unethical but a big disservice to the country).

Low pay and corruption

The above paragraphs on wages and market prices explain the relationship between low pay and corruption. Politicians are human beings and not all of them can be counted as honest to spend within their wages. Some of them have to reach out, using political connections and influences to meet their financial demands.

To turn the page and sharpen the teeth of few honest politicians, I think rising pay across the board, from teachers who receive 600 SSP ($2), to nurses, doctors (2,000 SSP or $6.7), soldiers (1,200 SSP or $4) (all expressed in USD amount equivalent to SSP in the black market rate of $1=300SSP) is not only a necessity to lift them out of destitution that have come with being a public servant but a tool to reduce corruption.

Corruption actually benefits very few people. Stolen money don’t built roads, public school or health centers. Low pay is therefore related to corruption because those politicians have to raise their kids, feed them, educate them and drive in good cars, all of which can’t be covered by meager wages. (I am assuming the MPs walk to work, don’t contribute to funerals or donate money in churches or to community associations). This is realistic; not an idealistic explanation.

Looking at the current market prices of basic items, one is left to guess how the Honorable MPs, Ministers and Governor pay for rent, education, medication and lavishly spend in foreign cities without endangering the resources budgeted for their constituencies. (It’s a million question).

In Juba Konyo-Konyo market, a 50kg bag of maize flour is sold for 5,000 to 7,000 SSP, a 50 kilogram of bean fetch between 15,000 and 18,000 SSP. Add to the shopping list the cooking oil, salt, charcoal or gas plus other ingredients and squeeze that amount into 9,000 SSP for TNLA MP and tell me the result! You must a seasoned South Sudanese politician to give a reasonable explanation in defense of ‘no to pay rise’ without mentioning the word ‘corruption’ as alternative source of extra income.

Way forward

You have to rise the pay. That is the way forward. As for source of money, go to the drawing board and ask yourself: how are politicians fueling their cars, buy or rent expensive apartments in foreign cities if there is no money? There is economic crisis, yes. But how did the economic crisis come about?

Economy flourish in less corrupt environment and ability to grow food, employ best talents to manage and invest public resources to generate income. We are bless with crude oil and money from oil sales should fuel growth (Late Dr. John Garang de Mabior said oil will fuel agriculture etc.).

So money is hidden there and it’s the duty of the government of the day to discover those accounts and untie the money to save the public. Corruption loopholes should be sealed without further delay. We cannot continue to hide our heads in sand. Let’s dialogue, as suggested and being championed through national dialogue.

(Disclaimer: These are purely my thoughts and I have no any political association with any political group or any interest in the money or lack of it. However, it’s our duty as citizens to express our constitutional right: freedom of press, expression and free speech.)

PTA

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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Comments
  1. Malith Alier says:

    MPs and other civil/public servants deserved more. They have been patient since devaluation of SSP in 2015. It is just a matter of time before the dams burst and flood engulfs those who are resisting this fact. They don’t know what the MPs and the rest of the country are going through.

    Like

  2. David says:

    The best thing to do to solve this problem is to devalue dollar again SSP everyone will be okay with their pay.

    Like

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