(Reuters) - Senegal’s president has pledged to cut the number of ministers in his cabinet and reduce government salaries, including his own, in a show of solidarity with citizens struggling with high energy and food prices. Others expected to be affected include Cabinet Ministers, members of Parliament, Senators, Civil Servants and all those working in the private sector. According to the plan, the president’s salary will be deducted by 30%, the ministers’ by 25% while MPs and Senators will have a cut of 15%. All in all the deduction will range from 1% to 30% for all those working in Senegal.
In an address broadcast on state television late on Friday, President Abdoulaye Wade said his government would put an emergency bill before parliament authorising the temporary pay reduction in a bid to “lessen the suffering” of the country’s poor.
“At a time when important fringes of our population are suffering in their daily life from the negative effects of the rise in world oil prices on their household, I have decided as president to set an example,” the octogenarian leader said.
Prime Minister Cheikh Hadjibou Soumare said Wade had asked him to come up with proposals to reduce the number of ministers in the cabinet from a current 38 as part of the measures.
Surging food prices, with grains and other crops at record highs, are making life difficult for many families in Senegal and across Africa, leaving them struggling to afford staples such as rice that make up the national diet.
Record oil prices have increased food transport costs, while the explosion of biofuels production from food crops, subsidised by some Western countries as less environmentally damaging than fossil fuels, has also contributed to the rise.
Senegal’s state electricity firm, Senelec, hit by a cash crunch caused by high global fuel prices and by rising consumption, has struggled to maintain supplies to the former French colony, an economic hub in the region.
Power shortages across the Sahelian nation of 11 million people have steadily increased in recent years, tarnishing its image as one of West Africa’s most developed states and disrupting businesses unable to afford their own generators.
Wade urged the population to try to conserve energy in an effort to stave off a worsening in the power crisis.
“I call on the solidarity of all Senegalese, to the business community, the formal and informal sectors, to religious leaders, to take part in this national effort,” he said.