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Treasury gives IMF date for civil servants pay cut

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Treasury gives IMF date for civil servants pay cut


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Treasury has been struggling to raise revenues to run the bloated public wage bill that consumes more than half of taxes. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya informs multilateral lender cuts on State workers’ perks will be done ahead of June next year.

Civil servants face deep cuts in allowances in the six months to June next year as part of Kenya’s commitment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to lower the public sector wage bill.

The Treasury informed the IMF the perks will be reviewed ahead of June next year in the undertaking tied to the Sh261 billion loan agreements that Kenya has inked with the multilateral lender.

The allowances cut and pay freeze until 2025 dampen the civil servants’ prospects of better fortunes amid tough economic times due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The State aims to curb allowances at a maximum of 40 percent of a public worker’s gross pay, shifting from the present unregulated model that lifts the take-home up to 259 percent of the wages.

The Treasury has been struggling to raise revenues to run the bloated public wage bill that consumes more than half of taxes, impeding spending on development projects.

The allowances that look set to be chopped include entertainment, responsibility, medical and utility, which covers items such as water, electricity and phone calls.

Subsistence allowance

The daily subsistence allowance or per diem, which the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) say is widely abused to inflate pay, will also be reviewed.

“The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) is currently consolidating comments and feedback from stakeholders. The final allowances and benefits policy will be issued by December 2021. Public sector institutions shall implement the policy in full within six months of issuance of the policy,” said the IMF in its latest review of Kenya that was made public Friday night.

This signals that State is targeting all government workers to be on lower perks at the start of the new financial year in July 2022.

The IMF disclosure came after it released the second tranche of Sh43.86 billion ($407million), which is part of the lender’s $2.4 billion (Sh258.65 billion) facility to Kenya.

Kenya got the first disbursement amounting to $314 million (Sh33.84 billion) in April.

The multilateral lender is expected to play a role in shaping policy that would require the government to implement tough conditions across many sectors.

The IMF advisories and disclosures come on the back of its multibillion-shilling loan facilities to Kenya where money flows straight into the budget to top up the public purse.

Under the administration of former President Mwai Kibaki, Kenya kept away from this type of credit, with most of the support from institutions like the IMF and the World Bank coming in the form of project support.

The cut in perks is one of the strategies, alongside a freeze in new hiring and removal of ghost workers, aimed at reducing Kenya’s ballooning public sector wage bill.

There are currently over 247 remunerative and facilitative allowances, up from 31 in 1999, payable within the public sector and they have the effect of doubling a worker’s monthly pay.

The SRC reckons many of the allowances being paid are already catered for through the workers’ basic pay, ultimately inflating salaries.

These perks include a medical allowance, an entertainment allowance, and a utility allowance to cater for water, electricity, airtime and security bills.

If adopted for all government employees, the remuneration guidelines will see the reduction of the wage bill by approximately Sh100 billion annually.

The wage bill for the 865,200 public servants stands at more than Sh800 billion, having risen from Sh458 billion in 2013. The 247 allowances account for 48 percent of the total wage bill.

Policy absent

“Absence of a policy to guide management and administration of allowances and benefits in the public sector has led to proliferation of allowances, distortions in remuneration, unfairness in pay, lack of transparency, accountability and inequity,” says the SRC.

The agency says no public entity will be allowed to pay higher allowances just because it has strong financial muscles and the ability to pay.

More emphasis was put on allowances starting 2015 as the government saw it as an alternative to controlling its pension bill by not raising salaries.

State think-tank Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra) said that allowances paid to civil servants have made the government the preferred employer and called for a radical review.

Currently, allowances have the effect of doubling an employee’s pay and in some instances growing it by a factor of 10.

Kippra recommends capping of allowances at about 25 percent of civil servants’ gross pay while the SRC favours 40 percent.

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months

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KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months


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A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Kenya Airways will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
  • The airline in a notice to its customers yesterday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.

The airline in a notice to its customers Monday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.

The airline will then resume full operations on the route on September 20, flying three times per week on the Indian route, which is one of the most lucrative destinations on its network.

Passengers on the route will part with Sh46,000 ($419) for one-way air ticket on economy class seats from Nairobi to Mumbai- prices that are relatively the same compared to what it was charging before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Welcome back onboard! Fly from Nairobi to Mumbai starting Thursday 16th September with normal schedules resuming from Monday 20th September 2021,” said the airline in a notice to its customers yesterday.

KQ Suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai on April 30 until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.

The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.

Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.

India has seen soaring infection rates in the recent days, since the discovery of a new virus variant. Last month, India put on lockdown one of the states following a spike in cases of Covid-19.

Other countries that have banned flights to India include France, the UK Bangladesh, Oman and Hong Kong that have banned travel to and from India or asked their nationals coming from the Asian country to isolate themselves in government-approved hotels.

India has so far detected 33,264,175 corona virus cases with the number of deaths hitting 442,874 as at September 13.

A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs

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Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs


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Man pulls a cart loaded with second-hand clothes at Gikomba Market in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
  • Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
  • Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

The average price of a tonne of second-hand clothing items imported into the country crossed the Sh100,000 mark for the first time last year on reduced volumes in the wake of safety protocols and guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus.

Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.

Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.

Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.

Last year’s drop was the first dip since 2011 when 76,533 tonnes were shipped in compared with 80,423 tonnes the previous year, the official data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.

The import bill for the merchandise amounted to Sh12.24 billion, a drop of 31.11 percent, or Sh5.53 billion, year-on-year.

TIn imposing the temporary ban on used clothes, Kebs had applied a standard which prohibits buying second-hand clothes from countries experiencing epidemics to ensure disease-causing microorganisms are not imported into Kenya.

Higher quality and relatively lower prices for mitumba has continued to drive demand for used clothes at expense of locally-made products amid higher margins enjoyed by traders largely operating in informal markets.

The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China —a key source market for the merchandise —open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years to cash in rising demand.

Earnings from exports of articles of apparel and clothing accessories fell 5.32 percent to Sh32.92 billion last year compared with 2019, data indicates.

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud

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Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud


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Cotu boss Francis Atwoli. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
  • Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.

Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of KPAWU. The rival union claimed KPAWU had encroached on its area of workers’ representation.

Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.

He also stated that Kefhau must go beyond its registration and recruit sufficient members from the employers, to be granted recognition and organisational rights.

“Registration on its own, does not afford the claimant (Kefhau) recognition. Until there is proof that Kefhau has satisfied Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, the status quo must be maintained,” said the judge.

“Kefhau must recruit at least 50 percent plus one, of the unionisable employees in the floriculture and horticulture industry, members of the Agricultural Employers Association to be considered for recognition,” he stated.

He noted that there is a Recognition Agreement and CBA, binding Mr Atwoli’s union and Agricultural Employers Association, affecting 73 Flower Growers Group of employers, and over 60,000 employees.

“It is objectionable for Kefhau to be allowed organisational rights, and the legitimacy to receive trade union dues and agency fees, from over 60,000 employees, just on the strength of registration as a trade union,” said the judge.

Kefhau wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s from representing workers in that area.

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