December 1, 2011

Do MPs represent us?

When I opened the internet today, I searched for updates in favorite websites (I usually like to get drunk with info). I stumbled on 2011 Transparency International corruption perception index. Searching for Tanzania, I found it occupying position 100, with other 7 African countries. Now do not be confused about the position. Tanzania, according to the index is in the red zone—one of the countries perceived to be very corrupt.

From there, I turned to newspapers. I was struck with the headline in Habari Leo that ‘Iringa kuandamana kupinga nyongeza ya posho za wabunge.’(People plan to demonstrate in protest of new increase in allowances to Members of Parliament)’

Whether wananchi will demonstrate as the Habari alerted, the TI index have a justification already. TI takes perceptions of citizens and non-citizens to draw the index. And, yes, corruption is popular in Tanzania. Why not?

The whole world is figuring out cost cutting measures. Tanzania is bold enough to increase seating allowances and travel allowances for members of parliament. Of all people, members of parliament. Shouldn’t this group of people mirror realities in our society? The people that member of parliament represent are live in squalor, struggle to get enough to eat, have less to put their children in good schools and even less to take care of their own health. Many of the poor that our MP ostensibly represents hope barely goes beyond tomorrow.

Before I give my judgement whether MP are justified to demand pay beyond their current remuneration (extras), I should first question the motive behind the idea of increasing pay now. Especially now. In which part of the world is our MP living? In which economy does the money come from?

Is it milked from this very economy that is struggling with an ever growing balance of trade?
Will that money come from the same economy whose production ails from lack of reliable power? Is that new posho going to be paid from the same tax on a farmer who the MP cannot speak for? Are we and our MPs and technocrats ever living in the same society? And finally where did they gather audacity to even think about it? Is the same government that turned away workers who demanded 315,000/- a month going to pay each MP  Tshs 330,000/- day, totaling 28,000 billion annually?

Sure, I can only prejudge the motive as a letdown, a total shame. Some members of parliament have distanced themselves from proposal. January Makamba was quoted in Mwananchi wondering at excuses his fellow ‘women and men of the people’ give for perks. Chadema MPs have also voiced concern. I hope it is not mere politics.

Editorials have been written by several newspapers. I read one in Mwananchi, another one in. but is this enough? I had written in my earlier post on this blog that oftentimes politicians in our country assume everything they say is okay and represent voices of their people.

One of the reasons, according to Makamba, that MPs give for their demand for more pay is that they need it as incentive to attend House sessions. They also need more cash to give handouts to voters who pester them for financial favours.

In other words MPs are telling us they after we have voted them into Parliament we pester them too much for money that they have to up their salaries (from our taxes) in order to satiate our endless calls for cash. I judge this reasons flimsy. Apart from being official corruption the new MPs perks explain the position of Tanzania among the most corrupt nations in the Transparency International index.

And how can it pull itself from the shame position. Each MP gives cash to their voters in exchange for nice opinion when TI enumerators pass questionnaire!

Now, this is what I will do. For one thing I pity the MPs because they do not know how their voters are thinking. For a fact our MP have alienated them from us. They are striving to keep up with the lifestyle of have lots, but notably earning on the coffers we struggle to fill (to no avail). I support the demonstrations in Iringa. I wish I can organize a protest myself; a flashmob is enough to let our ‘esteemed representative’ discover that voting for them did not mean we let them think our behalf. No. we elected MPs to speak on our behalf. Therefore, do not be ashamed to check whether you are still thinking correctly. And if not (mostly the case), do not be dismayed. We elected you to speak for us, in the first place. We will do the thinking, and please talk for us. Tshs 330,000/- a day for an MP who receives Tshs 7,000,000/- is not my idea. Reject it, or be rejected.

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