by David Musyoka and Peter Mutai
The Kenyan government is weighing three options to raise about 170 million U.S. dollars needed to pay teachers in salary increase awarded by the court.
National Treasury officials said the government will have to raise taxes and reduce spending on its development projects or borrow to help it raise the required funds to pay over 280,000 teachers.
“The government will either have to raise the taxes, borrow to raise the required amount, or come up with a supplementary budget, which will affect development spending,” Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge told Parliament’s Finance Committee late on Tuesday.
The country’s highest judicial institution, the Supreme Court, on Monday said that the government should abide by Appeal Court’s decision to give teachers a pay rise of between 50 to 60 percent.
The teachers’ employer body, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), had argued that it cannot afford the increase awarded by the industrial court.
A crisis talk by government officials convened on Tuesday failed to reach agreement on the award for teachers which comes as the public school sector edged towards chaotic days with schools opening next week.
The meeting, which was convened to strike a deal on how the salary increment will be paid out, resolved that consultations be moved to the higher level.
The meeting failed to strike a deal, and instead, asked for higher level consultations was understood to signal the intervention of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The meeting also resolved that TSC kick-starts talks with the two teachers’ unions with the aim of “negotiating a way out of the court order.”
The teachers unions — the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), have maintained that the TSC must pay up this month’s dues by Aug.31 or face industrial action.
The TSC had argued that the government does not have the money to honour the pay raise and that its officials were in danger of being arrested for contempt of court if they failed to implement the award.
The TSC, however, got a major relief after the court scrapped the July 30 deadline the government had been given to pay teachers about 370 million dollars in backdated salary arrears under new terms of service issued last month.
Speaking late on Tuesday, Thugge said raising taxes will scare away investors, at a time when the government has been wooing foreign investors to set up their businesses in the country as it requires increased foreign direct to bridge the financial gap.
The 280,000 teachers currently account for 38 percent of Kenya’s 4.2 billion dollars public wage bill.
Kenya’s wage bill has been rising fast following formation of new government institutions meant to implement the requirements of the new constitution. Enditem