On Tuesday, MPs across the political divide threatened to block the passage of the Finance Bill and Appropriation Bill to do with the 2011 National Budget, demanding that Finance minister Tendai Biti first make amendments to the budget.
The MPs from all the three political parties in the GNU are threatening to torpedo Biti’s budget until he grants them $3 000 monthly salaries as well as $200 000 each annually for constituency development.
So far, Biti has staunchly resisted the demand to increase MPs’ salaries from $400 to $3 000 and even absolved himself from responsibility to pay the Legislature.
The MPs planning to sink the Appropriation and Finance Bills are simply displaying a mercenary attitude. MPs must note that they are representatives of the electorate.
It is a thankless profession and Parliament is not a business. What have they done to justify this hefty salary increase?
If the truth be told, some of the most vocal MPs in the Seventh Parliament may be well aware that with the impending elections they may not win, hence they want to maximise before some of them complete their terms.
We do not expect representatives of the people to hold the same electorate which voted for them to ransom.
Suppose they were granted their wishes, will they professionally scrutinise the budget for the benefit of the country or not?
If the MPs have their way, their pay rise will dwarf what ordinary Zimbabweans earn and could provoke anger from the general public.
The MPs have said they have reported to work for almost two years without pay, getting only a $400 monthly allowance but what have civil servants been getting? Are they also pushing for their salary increase as well?
MPs should know better: if they do not pass the budget, they will not receive even their allowances until they get a state spending plan together.
Most of the MPs have no other jobs and little control over budget formulation, although they were invited to input during the consultations.
“If we give ourselves an honest salary, where a government minister is given $5 000, the Head of State at least $10 000 or more, the Members of Parliament $3 000, that budget alone for the year only requires $12 million,” said Mwenezi East Zanu PF MP Kudakwashe Bhasikiti recently.
Paddy Zhanda, chairman of Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance and Zanu PF MP for Goromonzi North, claimed the state was taking good care of ministers and judges but neglecting MPs.
But we believe the action taken by MPs shows they are not supportive of the noble objectives to sustain the economic stability because they will trigger demands for salary increments by other sectors.
We are not dismissing the issue of welfare of MPs and the civil service as “mere greed” on the part of MPs.
We are aware MPs are not the only ones operating under very poor conditions of service, hence they must continue to be vocal on issues dealing with everybody else and resist attempts to make them rubber-stamping agents of the State.
Financial and budget oversight is one of the key functions of Parliament and MPs must never compromise on that. If it means refusing to pass the Budget until certain pertinent issues are corrected, then the MPs should be allowed to exercise this constitutional right without fear or favour.
Furthermore that must be for the good of the country, and not only looking after their welfare.