We need to fix issues around diplomats’ pay

Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kampala. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Diplomats’ pay. 
  • Our view: The situation calls for urgent intervention. We need to pay and facilitate our diplomats much better than we have been doing.

Parliament has commenced debates on ministerial policy statements for the financial year 2024/2025. Among those to be discussed in the next few days is one for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

It is, however, important that Parliament emphasises the need to improve the pay and working conditions of our diplomats. The wording of the ministry’s policy statement falls short of telling it as it is.

“Inadequate foreign service allowance and education allowance of children of foreign service officers rendering officers unable to cope with the rising cost of living in the host countries,” it stated in parts. The actual figures are, however, worrying.

Heads of missions and their deputies earn salaries ranging between Shs1,690,781 and Shs1,624,934 per month, which reduces to around Shs1,390,000 after taxation. That is about $365.

The Foreign Service Allowances (FSA) – which range from between $4,823 (about Shs18.4 million), and $2,629 (about Shs10 million) per month for married officers serving in Category A nations, and between $4,193 (about Shs16 million), and $2,629 (about Shs10 million) per month for their unmarried colleagues; the $400 (about Shs1.5 million) in the form of a representation allowance given to the heads of missions and their deputies; the education allowance of between $2,000 (about Shs7.6 million) and $2,500 (about Shs9.5 million) per child per year for up to four children between the ages of four and 18 and; the one off children’s allowance ranging between $890 (about Shs3.4 million) and $650 (about Shs2.4 million) for up to four children are inadequate.

That pay and the allowances cannot help our diplomats meet expenses in the countries in which they serve or afford their children a good education in those countries. This explains why many of our diplomats are staying apart from their children, and in other cases their spouses. The jury is not yet out in terms of the ramifications of this on their families.

It has at the same time emerged that the head of mission in the United Kingdom has been staying in a hotel for close to one year now because the official residence is dilapidated and unfit for human habitation. The same applies to the official residences of the heads of missions in Dar-es- Salaam and Pretoria.

The chancellery buildings in Washington, Cairo, Copenhagen and New York, among others, are in dire need of major facelifts.

The situation calls for urgent intervention. We need to pay and facilitate our diplomats much better than we have been doing. We need to improve the environments in which they live and work if they are to deliver on their mandate. It is a worthy investment.