ODM appraisal of Uhuru’s State of the Nation address

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BY ANYANG’ NYONG’O

Fellow Kenyans, yesterday, you heard from the President on the state of our nation. We urge you to spend a few minutes with us as we give our side of the story. We are ODM. But it really should not matter because today, we are all hurting. One year after elections, millions of Kenyans are watching and asking; does this government want to stand on our side or in our way.

Ours is therefore a national call to action on behalf of all the struggling Kenyans. Our main point this morning is; Kenyans deserve far much better than this.

UNITY OF THE NATION:
We are too divided to build a nation ready to confront its challenges. Jubilee has run the country as a collection of tribes, allies and enemies. Every appointment to a public position has been handed down as a gift to supporters, along tribal and party lines. This skewed balance of power poses grave danger to our progress and it must not tilt any further in favour of one or two communities. It must be reversed.

ECONOMY AND COST OF LIVING:
Our economy requires urgent, immediate and sustained rethink. The absurd policy of tax and spend has traumatised Kenyans.
Families can’t pay rent, can’t afford food, can’t pay school fees and cannot afford bus fare.

In response, we are seeing and hearing the same-old ideology that we’ve heard before – over and over again: Salary cuts, retrenchment of workers, cleaning up the payroll of ghost workers and how there will be just a little more pain before it gets better. Kenyans are going through tremendous pain. It must not get worse.

We urge the government to focus on eliminating corruption, inefficiency and wastage. Savings from these areas would be sufficient to finance recovery and growth.

We advise that the government to put singular focus on food as the biggest driver of cost of living, particularly for the poor.

Let’s focus on pro-poor agricultural investment as this will result in jobs, containing poverty and reduction in cost of living. Let’s pay particular attention to job creation, expansion of economic opportunities particularly for farmers, informal sector, and economically disadvantaged communities.

The time has come for the government to treat unemployment as a crisis. We need a clear road map towards putting millions of Kenyans to work and encouraging companies to hire and not fire people. We have seen no such steps in the last one year.

Jubilee must use its numerical strength in the Houses of Parliament to come up with administrative, regulatory and legislative measures to help small firms start and expand. The cost of bank loans remains unbelievably high despite so much rhetoric about it. But if we are to create job creators and not job seekers, the cost of loans have to fall. Jubilee must use its numbers to champion these positive measures.

The government must embrace and engage small contractors and change the way it does business with them. Startups cannot afford to chase payments for months. A simpler engagement would help turn many enterprising young Kenyans into job creators, not job seekers. Small businesses must be treated as the engine of growth, and essential to economic recovery.

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