President Uhuru Kenyatta gave a good state of the nation speech in parliament in the face of raucous disruptions by the opposition MPs. I wonder what most Kenyans thought of the speech, what went right or wrong. What, if anything did the president fail to address or embellish in his speech? Why do you think
so and what’s your critique of the president? Any specifics? These are some of the questions I have been asking myself and this is my attempt to point out what I am sure most folks are thinking about.
First, except for its nuisance and entertainment value, I think ODM MPs conduct, by trying to bully the president into silence was immature and completely out of order. I thought those MPs were rambunctious clowns who need re-educating; there is time and place for disagreement but the purpose of the president’s speech was simply to give a report of where he sees the country from his vantage point, period. The opposition and the governed like myself get to respond afterwards like I am doing, it is the right way for civilized societies to conduct affairs. Methinks there ought to be serious sanctions or penalties against unruly MPs -severe enough to punish and prevent future recurrences. Notwithstanding these hiccups, the president as the good natured guy he is, appeared thoroughly bemused and you could tell he enjoyed the spectacle of the opposition make fools of themselves. That said, truth is the president skipped or glossed over and in some cases out-rightly embellished his government’s performance and that cannot go unchallenged. Some have called the President’s speech self-serving propaganda, a Public Relations Stunt, maybe so, maybe the president needs a reality check or tune-up but we are equally obligated to try and make the case for why he should do better and now it is our turn to speak and tell the president and whoever else listening what we really think and the State Of The Nation, and here is MY two cents.
Salute to the Military – Some of what the president said were OK because it is expected of the president, AS Commander-in Chief, to say those things, saluting fallen soldiers for example was in order but he failed to acknowledge the military’s own inherent unpreparedness contributed to the tragedy as there were multiple warnings before the attack. We have seen this movie severally before, in Garissa, Westgate mall attack, several in Coast province, the Baragoi massacre and others in between The point is this now a recurring theme, a pattern if you will- if the security forces suffer such causalities in the hands of ragtag militias and cattle rustlers, how is the ordinary citizen protected? The president didn’t address the issue adequately in my view.
Criticism of the government – The president struck a good note by inviting criticism by the opposition but truth is, the Jubilee government has increasingly become very sensitive and intolerant to criticism in the recent past. Stories of journalists and editors mysteriously losing their employment with media houses soon after they write unflattering pieces about the Jubilee regime and this president in particular are worryingly on the rise. In some cases folks are in jail for “insulting” the president, Alan Wadi Okengo alias Lieutenant Wadi, who was jailed for two years for insulting the president is a case in point. My point is, the president double-spoke and I hope he takes steps to reverse this worrying trend.
Economy- The president touted the country’s economic growth of 5.8% in 2015 and that Kenya is classified as a middle income country despite the glaring truth that it is not – someone had changed the formula about two years ago and forgot to include real income increases or lack thereof in the calculation but this is what the President didn’t tell us, that by any objective measure, overall the country’s economy is under-performing on almost all key measurable parameters and is losing its competitive ground to its neighbors at an alarming rate. Recent media reports tell a story of investors who prefer neighboring countries to Kenya because of corruption and poor governance; Kenya has lost so much ground that new direct investments are at pre-2002 levels. Retired President Mwai Kibaki had re-established Kenya as the region’s economic powerhouse after 24 years of continued decline under Moi. At the three year mark in Kibaki’s administration, the economy had registered an annual net gain/growth rate of roughly 10 %age points, from a negative 2.3% growth under Moi to about 7%. By contrast, the economy at a similar point in time under the Jubilee regime is tattering and continually being revised downward. Why? Poor leadership. With as many foreign trips as the president and almost the entire government have been making in the name of wooing new investors, the results should be triple or quadruple those of Kibaki who hardly traveled, so comparatively, it is logical to conclude that not only is the Jubilee regime under-performing but it’s policies are not working as well as they should, the economy seems to be supported largely by the programs initiated by Kibaki, that MUST change. The Fiscal and Monetary policies under the Jubilee regime are simply not working.
Fiscally Irresponsible, the country is practically insolvent and inching closer and closer into bankruptcy; currently, the Jubilee government runs on almost 50% annual deficit from only about 10% during the Kibaki era, the debt has quadrupled and now stands at US 47 Billion Dollars and rising -almost double the country’s GDP of US 26 Billion Dollars. This translates into about US 550 Dollars of GDP to a debt of US 975 dollars per capita, not good. Even as you read this, the president is on a trip to France where France announced another “debt” package of 28 Billion Kenya Shillings for infrastructure, we just had a 260 Billion Shilling bond sale less than two years ago with very little to show for it, so just I don’t see the value in this new debt. By failing to live within its means and as the borrowing rises, it not only crowds out businesses competing with the government for loans but also erodes the government’s own capacity and ability to fund other much needed services and infrastructure development because the ever increasing periodic interest payments actually are subtracted from available resources/budgets. At some point, even lenders will stop lending the country because credit risk becomes simply too much. Similarly, as these loans come closer and closer to maturity, the prospect of default is very real. In the meantime, the country’s credit rating has been downgraded in the last year, meaning it now costs more in interest rates and ultimately more money to borrow money.
Folks, this is a classic Ponzi scheme and the underlying economy simply cannot sustain it, we are on a wrong trajectory. Jubilee has borrowed and continues to borrow too much with very little to show for it. Instead it is saddling all of us with debt to fund corruption, most of the corruption is just outright brazen thievery while the rest is kickbacks to government officials disguised and hidden in hyper-inflated prices for the few projects Jubilee has taken on such as the SGR Railway project where Kenya is paying 4 times per mile compared to a similar project by practically the same contractor in Ethiopia, it is just unfair. Jubilee’s signature pet-project, “laptops” for first graders is yet another such ill-advised project that is corruptly gobbling up critical resources needlessly, Jubilee is funding the so-called laptops at an average cost of US 550 dollars a unit when in reality those are toys that could just be bought for about US 49 Dollars a unit (will discuss this in detail below). In the meantime, the government has such a cash crunch that it is cancelling major national projects that actually have the potential to provide a greater return on investment, is it any wonder?
Unsound Monetary policies, Jubilee has failed to tame inflation and interest rates for years on end and this has led to high cost of doing business which in turn means high cost of living, increasing UNEMPLOYMENT and a contracting economy. If you haven’t noticed, Banks in Kenya have been reporting ungodly and astronomical profits year after year, I mean insane profits – all because they have been allowed to charge exorbitant interest rates in the name of credit “risk” but truth is, there is a direct correlation between bank profits and the poor economic performance. The Jubilee government’s poor monetary policies are proving to be a major impediment to economic growth. As recent as two weeks ago, Jubilee’s Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich testified in Parliament that regulating interest rates is not the way to tame inflation but rather reducing domestic borrowing, it is an irony because as he testified, the government was floating Billions of shillings worth of more domestic borrowing to fund its recurrent expenditures; folks, this is the problem with Jubilee, double speak, hypocrisy if you will – and it needs to stop. Shoot straight with us. The president did not speak to these grim realities that the country faces that would most likely take place after he leaves office.
The Ignored downtrodden Diaspora – NOT once did President Kenyatta mentioned the Kenyan Diaspora in his remarks despite the fact that the Diaspora is a major economic engine that contributes as much as 12% to the GDP and government coffers. Quoting US Senator Elizabeth Warren, “if you are not at the table helping make decision, you are most certainly on the menu” and nowhere is that manifestly clear as with the Kenyan government’s relations with its Diaspora. Unlike other countries such as Israel, India, Morocco, Nigeria, and Egypt that have managed to institutionalize their Diaspora’s participation in their respective countries political, social and economic infrastructure and established platforms upon which capital flows are channeled with great quantifiable and measurable results, Kenya, due to political malaise and poor management, remains light years behind in setting up the requisite platforms upon which its Diaspora can fully optimize their full potential. As a consequence, the country has missed out and continues to miss out on a lot of transformative opportunities that its peers have reaped from their Diasporas, which must change. The entire Kenyan Diaspora, a 2 Billion Dollar portfolio is under ONE (1) person, a Director of Diaspora Affairs the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – methinks that the Diaspora should have a full stand-alone Ministry and Secretariat run, at least substantially, by the Diaspora itself. Last year the president commissioned the so-called “Diaspora policy” despite numerous protestations because it was fatally flawed and had been rejected before but it goes to show that the Jubilee government is actually tone deaf, unresponsive and detached from this critically vital constituency.
It’s an open secret that most folks in Kenya’s government have a disdain for the Diaspora and see us as noise makers who always seek special treatment and nothing could be far from the truth. According to these folks, we are NOT to be heard at all but to be silent and be silenced “kama mitungi wa maji” and let them determine our destinies without any input from us, which is the government’s Modus Operandi. We are and remain the most marginalized group of any Kenyans, even as we collectively contribute about US 2 Billion dollars to the Kenyan economy and the upwards of US 200 Million Dollars to government coffers annually but have been consistently denied the opportunity to vote. We are nothing more than a cash cow with zero say so in how we are governed, Taxation without representation is simply wrong and a human rights violation and yet that’s exactly the situation we are in. In this instance, the much touted constitutional provision of universal suffrage of one man-one vote including the remains elusive as ever primarily because, in spite of its public posturing and pronouncements, the Jubilee government has deliberately refused to fund the IEBC to register the diaspora voters- elections are next year and the voter registration exercise is ongoing and yet all promises made by Jubilee and IEBC remain a mirage, not a whimper anymore from these folks.
Soon after assuming office, albeit short-lived, President Kenyatta was seen as the panacea for the woes that Kenya’s Diaspora has endured in the strained relationship with the government over the years. He seemed genuinely concerned and even made bold announcements that would be mutually beneficial to the country and its diaspora such as his announcement in Washington DC that exempted Kenyans who live in Left-Hand Drive countries from import duties of right hand vehicles substitutes imported from other countries. Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich effectively reversed the president’s directive soon afterwards as you all might remember. Whereas other countries such as Israel, India, Morocco, Nigeria, and Egypt have managed to institutionalize their Diaspora’s participation in their respective countries political and economic infrastructure and established platforms upon which capital flows are channeled with great quantifiable and measurable results, Kenya, due to political malaise and poor management, remains light years behind in setting up the requisite platforms upon which its Diaspora can fully optimize their full potential. As a consequence, the country has missed out and continues to miss out on a lot of transformative opportunities that its peers have reaped from their Diasporas, which must change.
Corruption – At least the president acknowledges this is a problem but is he doing enough to stop it? Whether it is the Eurobond, NYS, Youth fund, name it- the problem is widespread. I mean the rot is too deep I am not sure whether acknowledging the problem serves the president much less the country any good or whether the president is unable and unwilling or just incompetent or an enabler and abettor or perhaps all of the above but the fact remains, he’s not doing enough to end the menace. Does anybody take the president seriously when he talks of the fight against corruption when in effect he surrounds himself with and has put corrupt people in key strategic positions? Is blaming the Judiciary enough when he is the one that is responsible for hiring corrupt individuals?
William Ruto- I am not picking on the Deputy President but I am trying to highlight the tenuous and untenable claims by President Kenyatta that he is fighting corruption, how is that even possible when the opposition calls his Deputy, William Ruto, the “High Priest of Corruption”? Perception is reality Mr. President and perhaps there is some truth in the opposition’s assertions, after all the record shows that Mr. Ruto has over the years faced multiple accusations of corruption, the most notable of which was the fraudulent dispossession of 100 acres of land in Uasin Gishu from a Post-Election Violence victim, Mzee Adrian Muteshi of which he put a spirited fight in court to retain but lost and was fined 5 Million Shillings (http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/Court-orders-Ruto-to-pay-Sh5m-for-trespass-/-/1064/1898148/-/p14chez/-/index.html). Ruto, using a proxy, was also adversely mentioned as the owner or co-owner of a hotel development company, Weston Hotel, which violently tried to grab school land in Lang’ata and teargased elementary school children who stood up to defend the land, http://www.nation.co.ke/news/Patrick-Osero-Weston-Hotel-Langata-Land-Grabbing/-/1056/2597900/-/odvo42/-/index.html.
The only known jobs Ruto has held all his career are government jobs; there is no known massive inheritance from his family to support his lavish lifestyle- his known pay over the years as a government employee is irreconcilable to the reported Billions he has amassed. Even in the midst of steep austerity measures that the government has now resorted to and Billions of Eurobond Shillings reportedly missing from the Treasury that Ruto’s side of the coalition controls, Ruto is the only high-ranking government official that consistently and conspicuously affords to fund MULTIPLE all-expense/allowances paid political pilgrimages to his personal residence, each made of thousands of political leaders from around the country, to conduct official government business and issue policy statements, while simultaneously contributing Millions of shillings to fundraisers around the country on a weekly basis and to top it off defending an extremely expensive high-profile, high-stakes case in Europe at the ICC – all on a less than 2 Million KSH salary! You know folks, you don’t need to be a forensics accountant to know that something is terribly amiss. The simple question is, how do you do it Mr. Ruto? What’s your secret? Where do you get all this money? What business do you run that is so profitable that allows you to do all these things so effortlessly? Are you current on your taxes? What’s your wealth? Can you declare it? My point is that these are the kind of folks that the president has surrounded himself with and also assigned great authority over national resources, it is literary the proverbial “foxes guarding the hen house”- whether it is mere perception or true, with such a person as the president’s deputy and a heartbeat away from ac becoming president, it is hard to convince the public that president Kenyatta is in fact serious about fighting corruption, he is NOT, it is a joke.
Katwa Kigen– President Uhuru Kenyatta as recent as two weeks ago, appointed DP Ruto’s lawyer Katwa Kigen, a suspected corrupt Kingpin on his own right, to head the Multi-Billion shilling Asset Recovery Authority. It is the proverbial adding insult to injury, rubbing salt to the wound if you will. Mr. President, we notice such stuff you know..
I am not picking on Kigen just going by what’s reported as a matter of public record of cases against Kigen as you can see for yourselves- makes you wonder the president is thinking about when he makes such brazenly outlandish appointments, http://www.kenya-today.com/opinion/uhuru-accord-kenyans-respect-stop-re-cycling-corrupt-persons-government-jobs and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fhe-7Okif4 – Mr. President you definitely could do much better.
And there are other numerous unresolved cases that cancel out any so called prosecutions of corruption, Devolution Secretary Anne Waiguru whom the president was compelled to let go, Bruce Odhiambo, the president’s personal friend or should I say crony and the KSH 400 Million theft mastermind at the National Youth Fund.. and several others, known and yet to be revealed are all great examples of the president not fighting corruption but enabling it. He cannot blame this rot on the courts, he hired them and shields them. We just are being played folks.
The Eurobond – All seems to be forgotten about this but Kenyans have not gotten the accounting and disclosures about the Eurobond. Truth be told that there is more rot about the Eurobond proceeds that will take years to unearth, for starters, the bond was sold at a premium given the prevailing market interest rates at the time and the bond coupon rates, so it collected more than it wants to admit and it is likely the kleptomaniacs at Jubilee schemed off the top. I reached out to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for details and reading between the lines of the response I received, it appears that the Jubilee government has not accounted for the all the proceeds of the bond sale. In the meantime, the major projects the Bonds were supposed to fund are being cancelled one after the other, go figure.
Ethnic chauvinism and Nepotism
I don’t think the president set out to preside over a deeply ethnocentric government dominated by the KUKUYU & KALENJIN but we can only go by what we see and the truth is, YES, the Jubilee government is overrun by ethnic chauvinism and domination by the two tribes that the president hails from. A highly disproportionate number of top government jobs where major decisions originate and control of resources are in the hands of Kikuyus and Kalenjins- from cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries, ambassadors, Parastatal chiefs, etc. Naturally this is a recipe for chaos because this practice invariably breeds frustration and resentment amongst the other 40 tribes who feel left out or under-represented. There’s no one to blame or who can fix this critical anomaly but the president himself but of recent appointments are anything to go by, we are not going to hold our breathes, the president seems tone deaf and detached from the simmering outrage as he doubled down on the skewed appointments. These are the kind of malfeasances that result in defeat at election time and I am sure this will be also be at the ballot box next year.
Collapsing Education standards– Despite his seemingly upbeat posturing in his speech, I think education is one of those low-hanging fruits that the president just let slip out of his control needlessly and would most likely cost him come election time next year and here is why. School cheating is on the rise, high school and college graduates do not have the requisite skills to compete in the job market, the country’s education curriculum is stuck in the 70s and is not teaching skills that will help the country grow, teachers are an unhappy lot, on and on.. In this instance, unlike Kibaki who transformed primary education by making it free and compulsory and paid for it as a matter of principle, Kenyatta’s approach to education has been purely political- deeply parochial and rudderless that has resulted in systemic hopeless dysfunction in the entire sector and here is why.
Perverted Laptop for first graders idea– This was an impulsive campaign pledge that the Jubilee duo made on a fly without really thinking through and now as they face re-election they are scrambling to fulfill it but here are the problems. First of all, they should have said that each student will have access to computer learning as opposed to pledging laptops to each of the Million plus first graders. Even in the most advanced countries such as the United States, kids are introduced to computers gradually- first at home and then in computer labs in schools. No government, especially one in Kenya’s shoes can afford to buy each first grader a laptop, even if the government could, it is still puerile. Kids six or seven years old do not have the cognitive skills necessary to understand and apply the full breath of laptop technology much less appreciate that level of capital investment being expended on them. Besides, it will take at least 16 years for the country to see one cent as a return on investment because that’s just how long it would take for these kids to get to the job market, by then most of the technology would be obsolete and useless. The payback on the investment is way too long. Now, I say it would be much prudent if such an investment was made of 12th graders where those skills could be used in the market place sooner than with first graders, and then gradually passed down through the rest of the grades – it would seem to be common sense but instead, they are doing it backwards in my opinions.
Expensive and corruptly obtained toys as Laptops – This y’all better keep a watchful eye on this because Jubilee is poised to pull a fast one on us as they appear to be in panic and are scrambling to show progress on their signature pet project before the campaign season begins. Jubilee now says it has bought 150 schools 40 “laptops” each. Folks, you do the math- that is 6500 “laptops” if you count gadgets for instructors. So out of the estimated 1,000,000 first graders it promised laptops, it has finally managed about 0.65%, i.e. less than 1% of what it promised, just months before elections, do you think it is a coincidence? Of course not. At this rate, the project is simply stuck as it won’t meet its intended targets- besides, the government is broke. It gets worse, it turns out, these are not real computers but practically toys that Jubilee contracted for about 55,000.00 shillings a piece but whose actual fair market value or price per unit is about 5,000.00 Shillings, you do the math. Again, that’s about 50,000 differential, the schools that are supposed to be served are not properly wired and equipped to use the technology, there are no trained teachers, I mean it is total chaos. – something is wrong somewhere.
Retaliation against teachers- Perhaps the most egregious and annoying aspect of this mess is that while Jubilee presses on with its haphazard “laptop” project at Billions of shillings, it has very badly antagonized teachers, the very people it would rely to effect its plan instead of embracing and incentivizing them. Specifically, the feud between the government and teachers over pay raises was totally uncalled for and so is the insensitive way the president and his deputy responded to them. The government, through the Teachers Service Commission had reached a Collective Bargain Agreement for a 50 to 60 % pay raise years back and then the interlopers at the Salaries and Remuneration Commission interfered and the government reneged on its own agreement.
The result was a protracted fight between the government that resulted in the longest teachers’ strike in Kenya’s history and the worst examination cheating on record. Rather than resolve this labor dispute, the government has instead decided to show the teachers who the boss really is and has retaliated by systematically trying to break the Teachers’ unions, cutting off membership dues to starve them of the much needed cash to operate; I mean it is just abhorrent, archaic and wrong on so many levels to even start addressing but that is the hopelessness and dysfunction of the Jubilee regime’s education system.
And there are is more, just not enough time or space to go through each one but another unrealistic promise, like the rest of the unfulfilled ones that Jubilee has made in past, was the president saying that he will work with parliament to build 3000 new secondary school classes by 2017, I mean that’s an average of 10 new classes a day- you and I know it is a pipe dream, it simply will never happen, just like the rest of the promises that have not happened of have been cancelled altogether.