More than half of Kenya's population lives
on less than one dollar a day
Mwai Kibaki, Kenya's president, has refused a huge pay rise that would have seen his salary increase to nearly three times its current amount after people across the east African nation protested.

"I strongly feel that despite the major strides that the economy has made, there are other priority projects in need of urgent funding," said Kibaki, a multi-millionaire with large property and retail businesses across Kenya.

 

Parliament awarded Kibaki the 186 per cent increase earlier this month.

 

The hike would have taken Kibaki's salary to about $30,000 a month, making him a bigger earner than some Western heads of state.

 

Kenyan civil groups and foreign diplomats had earlier expressed hope he would turn it down as a rare example of frugality to local politicians, who are among the world's best-paid.

 

Salary reductions

Several other leaders have chosen to reduce their salaries in recent years to improve their standing with the electorate.

Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, cut his salary by more than 50 per cent, from $48,000 to $18,000, when he took office and Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, chopped his pay by more than half in January.  
 
The Kenyan government had said that the pay offer was in line with international standards.

More than half of Kenya's population are living on less than a dollar a day and analysts had said that it was difficult to justify a huge pay increase.
 
Robert Shaw, an economist, told Al Jazeera: "Kenya is a relatively poor country by any standards. It has massive disparities of wealth. Two-thirds of the population live below the poverty line. So the answer quite clearly is no, it should not be paying those sort of salaries."

"Kenya is a relatively poor country by any standards ... So the answer quite clearly is no, it should not be paying those sort of salaries"

Robert Shaw, economist
One Kenya told Al Jazeera: "I think Kibaki deserves the money because he has improved so many things in Kenya. Life is better from what it was during the old days."

Many Kenyans believe that such payments could have gone a long way to make life a little better for the average Kenyan.

The country has about 200 slums and many of the children who live in them will never get an education because their parents cannot afford it.

Economists have estimated that the proposed increase in salary alone would have been enough to send eight million of the country's poorest children to school for a year.
 
Kenya will get a chance to have their say on the president's action to decline the pay rise next year when he is scheduled to stand for re-election.

Kibaki took power after an election in December 2002 during which he pledged to tackle widespread corruption in Kenya.

Source: Al Jazeera, Agencies