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Super greedy politicians

Dear Pain

Some people have all the luck.

Take, for instance, politicians.

Members of Parliament (MPs) only have to toil on the campaign trail, often for a short while, and then, boom, everything falls into their hands.

You talk of the obscene allowances lawmakers get, even when they were not physically available in Parliament.

You talk about double dipping, as happens when legislators draw money from Parliament’s account and then demand an equivalent of the amount drawn from Parliament from organisers of events.

And, by design, all MPs find themselves in one committee or the other, where, often, they organise lame events just to line their pockets with ill-gotten allowances.

There are many ways of making allowances, so long as you are an MP.

The situation is even better for Cabinet ministers, who, by the mere fact that they served in Cabinet, earn some hefty amount of money in the form of gratuity.

Just in July, Malawians were shocked to learn that those that have served as Cabinet ministers— and those that are serving— may cart home K1 billion in gratuity. Needless to say at the expense of the taxpayer.

While Malawians are bearing the brunt of elevated prices of cooking oil, paraffin, petrol and diesel, sugar, salt, soap, soya pieces, powdered milk, and what have you, some people called politicians are planning on how to enjoy the loot when they have served in positions they are holding.

And, if you were to hear them talk, you would not get a hint that they are suffering; that they are with us. Far from it. To them, life does not stop simply because the majority in this country are suffering.

Unfortunately, the people who have to bring solutions to some of the challenges Malawians face are not politicians. Politicians benefit from the systems they, themselves, have put in place. When coming up with the systems, they see to it that maximum benefits fall into their hands.

That is why they are the only ones smiling when the rest of us are crying.

Take, for instance, the issue of austerity measures that the highest office put in place recently. The measures include the banning of lakeshore meetings for civil servants and reduced members of delegations, especially when dignitaries are going abroad.

There are many other measures, some of which are being disregarded willy-nilly already.

That is it. Politicians want the rest of us to live life the hardest way while they live grandiose lives.

The onus is on citizens to stop this way of doing things; of course, responsibly.

Not that those in the opposition would do things differently. Right now, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has been saying that the recent fuel price hike will affect Malawians, who are already struggling economically.

True, but what is the opposition doing to help the government out?

Even the Malawi Congress of Trade Unions (MCTU) has hinted at the possible negative effect of the current economic situation on workers in the country. It has been claiming the devaluation of the Kwacha by 25 percent and fuel prices increase have exacerbated the economic challenges.

The unions’ mother body’s president Charles Kumchenga and secretary general Madalitso Njolomole feel that it is high time the government subsidised and removed the tax on petrol, diesel and paraffin.

The leaders have also been calling on the government and companies to increase salaries and wages for all employees to help them cope with the harsh economic challenges prevailing in the country. Not just that, MCTU is on record to have proposed a 100 percent minimum wage increase from K50,000 to K100,000.

“MCTU notes that these economic trends have various devastating impact on workers’ welfare, employment creation, decent work promotion, and the cost of living for all Malawians in general. MCTU is further very worried with the fact that the fuel prices have been revised at the time when wages and salaries for the majority of Malawians are still low and that some have not been revised for so long despite the tough economic situation,” the body says.

However, this, too, is mere talk. To make matters worse, the talk is bordering on the impossible.

Malawians want practical things, and one of the practical things is to reduce the cost of avoidable things; say, for instance, the K1 billion gratuity for Cabinet ministers, up-market take-home packages for lawmakers and the like.

Politicians must show, through deeds, that they feel the pain that we, ordinary citizens, are feeling. The time for living in two different worlds is gone. Pain, like good things, has to be shared equally.

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