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Benin: salary of ministers under Boni Yayi, the confidences of Valentin Djenontin

Benin: reaction of Valentin Djènontin, after the release of his son, Elie

The salary earned by Ministers is a subject that has always been the subject of controversy and debate between trade unionists, workers, the population, activists and relatives.

Here, I would like to lift a corner of the veil on what the Ministers earned under the regime of President YAYI. The light that I shed here relates to the second term of President YAYI Boni (2011-2016), a period during which I was Minister several times.

the investigator's guide
the investigator’s guide

Three elements hold my attention in the remuneration of Ministers under President YAYI:

  1. Installation bonuses
  2. The monthly salary
  3. Health insurance.

Contrary to the staggering figures often put forward:

Installation bonuses

For their installation, the Ministers newly appointed to the Government of YAYI are entitled to a bonus of five (5) million CFA francs per Minister and not 50 or 100 million as I often hear. This bonus is paid only once even if the Minister is reappointed several times in the government following ministerial reshuffles.

As proof, personally, I participated in seven (7) Governments of President YAYI Boni in three different ministerial departments between 2011 and 2015; but I only received the said bonuses once.

I’ll tell you a little anecdote. One day, in the company of some Minister colleagues, we went to see some leaders of one of our communities. In a joke, one said to us “Ministers, it seems that you receive 50 million at the start of your duties and you leave us like this?”. The colleagues and I had burst out laughing as well as our hosts. I replied to the person who raised the concern that this was not true and best of all, this bonus is not automatically collected. The proof was that we hadn’t even received it as we spoke.

The premium is paid much later by the Public Treasury after administrative formalities.

The Minister’s monthly salary

Each Minister earned a gross salary (base salary plus various bonuses and allowances) of One million seven hundred thousand (1,700,000) CFA francs. This salary is subject to IPTS (Progressive Taxes on Salaries and Salaries) of just over five hundred thousand (500,000) CFA francs.

Ultimately, each Minister received a net monthly salary of One million one hundred or two hundred thousand (1,100 or 1,200,000) CFA francs depending on his family responsibilities (number of dependent children).
This salary includes the salaries of household staff (cook, gardener, etc.) that the Minister must deduct from his salary and pay his employees directly.

This salary is the one I received as well as almost all of my colleagues. I don’t know if the Prime Minister, the Minister of State and the Ministers living abroad before their appointment received a salary different from ours.

Health insurance

The Minister benefits with his family (wife and children aged 21 at most) from health coverage materialized by health insurance paid for by the State.

This is the reality of things with regard to the remuneration of Ministers under President YAYI in my time.

Besides, political salaries are no secret. A Decree defines these wages and as a regulatory act, it is in principle subject to publication in the Official Journal of the Republic.

Contrary to the salaries of civil servants, the salaries of Ministers have not seen any increase under the mandate of President YAYI. To this end, I do not think I am violating a secret by telling you about a debate that took place one day in the Council of Ministers.

In the aftermath of the controversial 25% increase in the salaries of civil servants following pressure from the hyper-powerful trade unions at the time (Laughter), the Ministers asked the President of the Republic, YAYI Boni to slightly improve their salaries. The categorical refusal of the Head of State was immediate.

According to him, increasing the salary of Ministers just after the increase of that of civil servants in a context of notorious social crisis barely contained, would be perceived as a provocation of the unions, especially since the Ministers earn relatively better than most of the executives of the management; some Company General Managers earn more than their supervising Ministers. He was not ready to engage in this showdown with the social partners.

If there was one exercise that I refused to do, it was to talk to you about how most Ministers under President YAYI spent their salaries. However, to avoid giving my presentation a taste of unfinished business, I will tell you a little about what was happening, mainly because of the particularly difficult conditions in which we had worked: democratic liveliness where elective positions were filled following free elections , transparent, inclusive, peaceful; where the unions, the students could express their discontent by go-slows; where magistrates, lawyers, members of civil society could organize marches of all colors; where citizens, journalists, members of NGOs could freely express their opinions and even call the President of the Republic all the names of birds, threaten Ministers in front of cameras and microphones without fear of prison, without being kidnapped, without be killed or forced into hiding or exile.

In this atmosphere, President YAYI has chosen to be constantly alongside his people, the exclusive holder of sovereignty and legitimacy on the ground with his Ministers. This propensity of the President to be constantly in contact with the population, which some qualified as populism, could be justified by the need to bring the sound of the Government to the lower classes regularly watered with lies, fabrications, intoxications for the purpose of manipulating him against the executive.

These outings made it possible to present to the population not only the achievements of the executive but also and above all to explain to them the causes of the artificial tensions maintained on the ground by the political class whose face and hidden ambitions have been revealed since April 2016.

Under these conditions, the territorial control of the electorate by the politically committed Ministers became a vital, primordial and crucial issue since the elections (local, communal, legislative, presidential) were won by fierce struggles.

The head of the district or village, head of the district, mayor, deputy was not the one simply designated by the President of the Republic, but the one who had an electorate and who, together with the militants of the party, controlled his electoral district.

These regular descents of the Ministers in their locality were not without incidence on their salary. These trips had a cost and a price to pay.

The maintenance of the electorate is done through not only the regular physical presence of the Minister on the ground alongside the population, but also and above all through the financial support of the happy and unhappy events of the militants; financing the activities of women’s associations, youth movements, schoolchildren, students, socio-cultural groups, material and financial support for traditional chiefs, crowned heads, religious dignitaries, leaders of religious denominations, gifts for end of year celebrations, etc.

So, on the salary of the Minister, especially those who were politically active and engaged in the field, were grafted with huge unimaginable social charges.

The solicitations were so huge and recurrent that, despite all the efforts and sacrifices of the Minister, he was misunderstood by family, relatives, friends, activists, leaders of associations and movements; each person or each group believing that they have not received enough, literally forgetting that the Minister receives daily and from all sides hundreds of requests of all kinds and that he does not have a printing press.

Behind the apparent ease of certain Ministers at the time, there was a real misery hidden since they were overwhelmed by requests for assistance.

I could argue that the relative prosperity of yesteryear was well shared not only at the macro level but also at the micro level. Any Minister who did not have a sense of sharing with his population could not remain in the Beninese political arena.

Looking back, personally, I continue to believe that politicians should be humble, empathetic, sympathetic and generous. However, I believe it should not be the norm in politics for the Minister or MP to be seen as the regional responsible for social services. The populations must understand that the political authorities have no vocation to solve their financial problems personally or to give them gifts and other donations.

Ministers, deputies, politicians, by the relatively high salary they earn, must show generosity to help the people if they can; but, this should not constitute a criterion of political choice. This is a behavioral deviance that was installed by some politicians in the aftermath of the National Conference and gradually maintained. We all have an imperative obligation to work to curb this habit through citizenship education.

But to examine it closely, the financial harassment of Ministers and Deputies by a certain layer of the population has, in my view, its source in the notorious unemployment of unemployed young people, the pronounced poverty of farmers, craftsmen, saleswomen, etc. …, the non-health coverage of all by health insurance; in short, a problem of development and distribution. It really urges politicians to rethink Benin’s development model and especially the social issues of employment, health, solidarity, education for all sections of the population at the national level.

We must get off the beaten track, completely change paradigms and enter into a dynamic of innovation with the sole reference of the integral, holistic social well-being of all citizens regardless of their status.

Any development that does not place Man at the heart of concerns is vicious, vain and anti-progress. This system will only generate indignation, contempt, discontent and revolt.

Rulers, ruled, it is up to everyone to play their part properly for the happiness of the whole community, for peace and harmony.

“It is the blessing of the Lord that enriches, and he does not follow it with sorrow. » Proverbs 10:22

In the weeks to come, I will try my hand at the complexity, the major trends in governance in our country. Always be numerous to read me.

DJENONTIN-AGOSSOU Valentin

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