While the President appears to be pontificating and foaming at the mouth about an unmanageable wage bill and salary cuts, some of his own pronouncements and his government’s policies are doing more harm to the economy than good.
His being not in good books with the west which is withholding about KES15 billion only adds to the pain he has to manage and should cause him more worry than slicing a mere 20% of his salary. The amount he might save from these cuts may only amount to a few hundred million shilling, which is a drop in the ocean compared to the billion shillings deficit. This gift from the west supports the NGO world, which is a major employer and distributor of wealth among many Kenyans, but even those are being vehemently fought.
There are moves now to re-change the constitution to remove various office holders that we now realize are redundant and unnecessary. We had not envisaged that when we passed the New Constitution, though we expected the provincial administration to be removed but has been retained.
Government wastefulness is also to blame for lack of revenue and must be curbed. Unnecessary and ludicrous allowances are being paid to various officers for doing what they already earn salaries to do.
However, it is the pronouncements and policy directives being issued left, right and centre that are ultimately doing us in. Take for instance the fact that Kenya Breweries Ltd, (EABL) a major employer and taxpayer has laid off a hundred employees. That may look insignificant and unnoticeable to many but considering that any one of them was a benefactor to around five other Kenyans, six hundred people have technically been orphaned.
This could be due to loss of revenue arising from Mututho laws and the (in)famous alcoblow. Less and less people are drinking; they are drinking for less hours and drinking less beer in fear of being waylaid on their way home by some overzealous alcoblow police. In the circumstances, many opt just not to drink.
From my position, I should be celebrating, but I know too well that once you ask a prostitute to leave the only trade s/he knows, you should be able to direct them to an alternative source of income, otherwise after a day or two without ‘work’ and income, which means no interaction with ‘colleagues’ (man is a social animal) and no food on the table, they will revert to the only business they know.
By reducing drinking, we should be in a position to provide an alternative business model for EABL so as to help them employ even more Kenyans and pay more taxes to the government, and also make the business environment more conducive for increased activities. With these layoffs, how has the government helped reduce unemployment, a key promise of the jubilee government?
Just this week, the Deputy President announced that there will be no tea in government offices and worse still, the government will not be buying papers for the various offices it buys.
All the ingredients used to make these refreshments; tea, coffee, milk, sugar and whatever else that is served are ‘Made in Kenya’. That is reduced revenue to the suppliers of these items. It also means that those who can afford to buy from the local vendors and hotels will have to leave their offices ‘to go take tea’, implying time will be wasted, both by employees and those seeking their services as they will have to wait on queues for them to return from their ‘teas’ wherever they may have gone to search for them.
The government buys about 5 million newspapers every year throughout the country. At KES60.00 per paper, that translates to a loss of KES300 million to the newspaper industry. I see the media laying off staff, abetting unemployment further. I have a personal interest in this one.
Then, there is this night travel ban. When it was instituted, I applauded. I applauded because if you have a son or daughter who is prone to truancy, and you warn them once, and twice even thrice and they do not seem to heed your advice and correction, then you take the next available measures to ensure they hear, notice and heed your admonitions. Spanking is politically incorrect but it still popular. Grounding and denial of certain privileges has appeared as a suitable alternative where certain limitations are ensured “for a given period of time” depending on the misdemeanor in question. This is where I differ with the government.
I had hoped that the ban was for the festive period only! While it harmed a lot of business both for the transport industry and people who hoped to cash in on the period, there is no telling the number of lives that were saved, and probably have continued to be saved for as long as the ban stands. Nevertheless, it should have been to ‘teach a lesson’ to these truant drivers and vehicle owners, not kill business forever. It should have been a short term measure to a problem, as we look for the long term panacea. Alas! It has now become the cure all.
One also does not need to be a rocket scientist to know that when a road has 10000 vehicles plying it and there is a 10% accident rate, the number of accidents with be higher than when the same route has 2000 vehicles with the same 10% accident rate. The ban reduced the number of vehicles on the roads and therefore lowered the number of accidents, but apparently accidents are still with us, meaning there is something else fundamentally wrong, and that is what we should address. If it is still drunkardness among the drivers, or just poor driving skills or even poorly designed roads, lack of clear road signs and potholes, that is what we must address, and not kill business by killing transport and communication. This was a key tenet of the industrial revolution. To imagine a digital government in the 21st century that is taking us back to before speedy transport and communication was known is shocking indeed.
Recently we even heard the Nairobi County Police Commander Benson Kibue issue an edict for motorbike operators to ‘close shop’ by 8.00 pm, whereas it is between 3.00pm and 11 pm that their business is brisk. Before boda bodas became popular, crime was at an all-time high. Crime is reduced when people are gainfully engaged and proper crime prevention measures put in place. Did I hear that we are supposed to pursue a 24-hour economy? Pray tell, when such pronouncements are made, how do are they supposed to reduce crime?
Surely, matatus are hijacked in this city, left right centre, not once has evening matatus been banned and we are not under a curfew. Then again, how many times have people been attacked in their private cars -by people in other private cars, not motor bikes- and personal night travel has never been banned. Last time I checked, the boda bodas are manufactured complete with a headlight, meaning they can be used at night; Mr. Kibui seems not to know this. Oh! And while at it, I know a few friends who own and use a motorcycle as a personal transport system. Are we suggesting to them not to use them at night? If they have a friend, they should not ‘lift’ that friend home in the evening, as long they all have the right gear? Where are some of these policies from? It is the police, looking for the slightest hole to sink some corruption money through!
President Uhuru Kenyatta is saying the things that people need to hear when he speaks publicly, otherwise called populism. His policies, directives and reactionary orders from his government are doing the exact opposite. His salary, even if he refused to take the whole of it cannot sustain us or our economy. And if he is not getting his salary and a good one at that, how sure are we he is not supplementing through corrupt means? The same for his members of the executive?
Your Excellency Sir, get your salary and enjoy it. Only create policies that will enable more Kenyans earn a salary and do profitable business both during the day and during the night. Your responsibility is to ensure we are secure by day and by night; that our roads are smooth and well constructed to reduce accidents and that foreign investment is happening, whether from the East or the West. Micromanaging our lives, and determining what time we wake up or sleep is not the reason we elected you, Sir.
Please go ahead and roll out all the mega projects you promised and those you have initiated, including the laptops –if you can do it above board and you have the money. Otherwise you do not destroy the economy, enjoy you retreats, and then come around and tell us you need to lay us off to bring us development. Please visit Nigeria with an open mind, then come and we have that National dialogue you are talking about ….
And we have not even discussed corruption!