The politics of development and where we went wrong

The problem of this country is limited resources. Our public resources are not enough to cover our work force and the private sector is still too small to be of any significant help. The current talks about the integrity of the coming national census as well as the discussion about some areas the country being neglected by the President are all about sharing of the limited and to some extent nonexistence resources. Worst still the political tension and the huge fights for the country leadership have always been about sharing of the public resources. The question I have been asking myself is should we be spending all our time discussing and even fighting on how to share nothing or should we be trying to figure out how to grow the resources.

First, let’s start by asking ourselves why we have very limited resources despite the fact that the country has some of the most entrepreneurial people in this side of the world. The answer is simple, wrong priorities and bad leadership. Since 2013 when Uhuruto took over the leadership of this country, we stopped growing from that point. The first wrong priority was to go for a shining but junk (white elephant) project in the name of SGR. Spending over 300 Billion shillings on a project that was not going to be profitable in the short to medium term, and might not be at all was the first wrong decision they made. The experts and the laymen like us shouted and begged the new team to reconsider but the two dynamic duo plus their blinded supporters were too arrogant to listen.

The second big mistake was Eurobond. Again the experts and the laymen/women like us shouted and asked how the money will be used. The dynamic duo and their supporters were too arrogant to explain to other Kenyans where the money was and what it was being used for. Even the Auditor general was humiliated in state house, because he dared to try to find out the truth about Eurobond.

The third big mistake was to discard Kibaki’s Vision 2030. From that point the country was rudderless, aimless, visionless and clueless and one might even add leaderless. Setting goals and sticking to them is very important for any organization. Vision 2030 spelled our goals and ways to achieve them within a given period of time. It is not bad for a new leader to think differently, but if you are going to do away with a vision already set by your predecessor, then it’s upon you to do the simple thing of introducing a new better one. Pablo Picasso once said “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

The fourth mistake was to allow the runaway corruption. The Jubilee era corruption has been at a level which had never been seen before. People would talk about Moi’s time corruption but I can’t remember at any particular time in our history when for example a mention of a loss of a billion tax payers’ money sounded like a normal thing. The talk about fighting corruption at the moment is just a pure PR exercise. When it comes to corruption, people are guilty from the investigators to the very top of the food chain. Sometimes I like reading the Bible, Mathew 7.5:  “You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

The fifth big mistake, was the Government not embracing devolution fully. The first few years most Governors spent fighting the central Government for more resources. Instead of simply embracing the devolution and sending the required resources to the counties, central government became the biggest obstacle to the initial take off of the county Governments. The Former Governor of Bomet Isaac Rutto captured it very well with his Pesa Mashinani campaign. Some corrupt fellows at the National Government even told him on his face that the money does not belong to his mother (Pesa si ya mamako bwana).

The final point above is so important especially in discussing the sharing of our public resources. The drafters of the 2010 constitution knew that for years the development of this country had been skewed to favour certain regions, while completely neglecting some regions that were deemed to be opposed to the leadership of the day. Other areas were simply neglected because they were considered less important due to the fact that their tribal numbers did not add much to the vote basket of the ruling coalition. To cure this, the 2010 constitution created counties and mandated the Central Government to share a percentage of the overall resources with the counties. From that point the centre of development for each region became the counties. According to the Chairperson of the CRA, Dr Jane Karingai, counties have been allocated Ksh1.5 trillion since 2013/2014. The next question is what did that money do? If that money did not change the lives of the Kenyans, it is still a failure of the top leadership in the country. The national Government has the investigative power and the authority to ensure that counties are using the resources to improve the lives of Kenyans. But as we have seen, the central government is run by even bigger corrupt individuals and hence no moral authority to point fingers at those stealing at the county level.

It is interesting to hear some Jubilee supporters and MPs waking up to the reality that there are no developments in their region. The truth is they are right, only that they are looking at it with a narrow selfish view. There have been no developments everywhere in the country. The only different with the other regions is that the people saw that the dynamic duo were a mess and the leadership of the country needed to be changed. The Jubilee leaders and their supporters despite the glaring evidence to everyone else told us that they have transformed the country. Sometime you may just need to sit back and laugh at the sight of what the politics turn the bright Kenyans to.

Here are the realities and some facts about Kenyan economy:

  • Some 2.2 million micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) shut down between 2012 and 2016, according to a survey by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS). According to that report, 400,000 MSMEs shut down every year. You are not going to create jobs for the youth and others when the businesses are shutting down.
  • An analysis by Financial Standard (FS) last year revealed that 2013 was the best year for most listed companies in Kenya. Cumulatively, since 2013 when Jubilee under President Uhuru Kenyatta came to power, the 56 companies whose results FS analysed, have lost Sh 61.27 billion from their earnings.
  • In 2016, the same set of companies only managed a combined profit of Sh149 billion, being nearly a third (29 per cent) below the profits posted in 2013.
  • While IPOs were common occurrence during Kibaki years, it is hard to remember any notable IPO being done under the Jubilee Government
  • In May 2018 The Nation reported that the contribution of the manufacturing sector to the economy and jobs had been declining over the past five years. The sector’s share of the gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by more than two percentage points from almost 11 per cent in 2013 to 8.4 per cent in 2017, according to the 2018 Economic Survey

 

Finally, what is the way out? If there is anything that Kenyans are good at is getting back on their feet after being on the brink of calamity. We found a way to give the country multi system in early 90s, we found a way to get Moi out of power in 2002, we found a way to end the Post-election violence in 2007, and we found a way to calm the tension after the 2017 elections. Though the above are not directly economic crisis, I think Kenyans have the capacity to put the country back  on track, much like what was done during the early years of the Kibaki’s administration. At this point the best cause of action would be;

  1. Either go back and update vision 2030, in line with the new realities on the ground or come up with a new plan
  2. Start investing on people and not new shiny projects most of which end up being big fat white elephants. Find out how farmers ended up with fake fertilizers, and correct that stupidity. Sort out the NCPB issue and ensure that real maize farmers are happy so that they can go back to doing what they are good at. Sort out sugar cane farming issues, sort out the coffee farming issues, sort out the miraa farming issues
  3. Stop senseless borrowing, in other words let us live within our means for a while no matter how hurting that would be in the short term
  4. Put a law in place to ensure that at least 30% of the money going to the counties are spent on the development projects. And while at that, prosecute those stealing the money meant to help wananchi at the county level
  5. Our main concentration should be how to grow the pie and how to use the existing pie wisely. You see with the 2010 constitution, the country figured out how to share the resources and from there on we did away with siasa mbaya maisha mbaya kind of policy. What we need to do is to strengthen the process
  6. Invest in research. We should stop doing this ovyo ovyo before understanding the consequences. I am looking at money wasted at the irrigation in Galana Kulalu, the money wasted on the laptop for kids project and many others. And for heavens sake listen to our experts, and use them for the betterment of this country. We have talented individuals in each sector of the economy
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Kennedy Kachwanya