Sunday July 13 2014

Why are Shs20m earners angrier at Shs96m salary than 250k earners?

By Joachim Buwembo From the Sideline

What is wrong with getting a salary of Shs96 million?” I heard my maid asking her friend.
“I also don’t know,” answered the minister’s maid as she flipped channels on the TV.

“Don’t you people realise that is too much money?” I asked in surprise that these girls were not bothered at the revelation that had infuriated Members of Parliament.
“Too much for what?” asked the minister’s maid. “What is the maximum salary set by Parliament and has it been exceeded by State House staff?”

That caught me a bit off guard as I tried to recall if there is a salary ceiling in Uganda’s Public Service. I have heard talk of a minimum wage but could not recall if a maximum wage has been set.

“I thought workers have been crying for a minimum wage for ages and the MPs have not considered their cries worth answering,” the minister’s maid went on seeing that I had not answered. Every time people talk of the MPs’ Shs20 million salary they say it is not even enough to meet their demands. So how do they know the Shs96 million is enough for the the State House staff?”
“What is the difference between Shs96million and Shs20 million?” my maid asked. I did not rush to answer for I feared there could be a catch in the question.

“What have you people been drinking?” I asked as I sniffed their teacups. “How can you not find it strange that someone gets Shs90 million a month?”
“Why should I care when a person getting Shs20million quarrels with one getting Shs90 million?” asked my maid. “The MPs always say it is their right to fix their salaries. That is why my boss and all his cabinet colleagues opt for the MP salary instead of the ministerial salary of about Shs3 million. The policemen who guard us need to work for 100 years to earn what an MP earns in one month...”

“Stop exaggerating,” I snapped at her. “A policeman needs to work only for six and a half years to get what an MP gets in a month.”
“Only six and a half years,” echoed the minister’s maid. “And I presume he needs to work for only 30years to get what the top State House aide gets in a month. So you expect us who earn less than policemen and teachers to share the MPs’ anger?”

“The MPs are angry on your behalf,” I argued.
“Are you sure?” my maid screamed. “Where have they been all the time that we have been crying about a minimum wage? Is it not more urgent to deal with the minimum wage than a maximum wage?”

“And is it not the same MPs who pass the State House budget year in year out?” asked the minister’s maid. “If the State House people ask for a budget and it is given, it is them who know how they need to spend it, just like the MPs decide that they each need no less than Shs20 million a month. Tebatukooya!”

“They are annoyed that there are people earning more than them,” concluded my maid. “They thought they are the top earners in Uganda now that someone beats them, they are jealous. Wamma tebatukooya.”
“But they spend the money on voters’ funerals and wedding meetings,” I tried to defend the MPs.
“If that is what they understand the role of an MP to be then let them enjoy their frustration with State House salaries alone and don’t involve us,” said the minister’s maid as she moved to the kitchen to fix herself another tea. “Tebatukooya