Economist warns against extra MPs

February 6, 2010

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 6 – Kenyans will have to shoulder the economic burden of a bloated Parliament if the proposal to increase the number of constituencies remains in the draft Constitution.

Economist Dr Gerrishon Ikiara told Capital Business that the provision to increase the electoral areas by 80 was included to accommodate political demands and if it remains unchanged, then the country’s economy would bear the brunt.

“If every tribe wants a minister, if every constituency wants an assistant minister or a PS (Permanent Secretary), all these are demands that cannot be ignored by the leaders of the nation and so this will become an additional burden,” he said.

The need for equal representation has been a thorny issue even for the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitution Review who after looking at various options decided to settle on increasing constituencies from 210 to 290.

“It was actually a way of addressing that issue (representation) such that people feel that a vote in Mandera, Nyeri or a vote in Ijara is the same,” he said.

While the objective of equal representation would be achieved if the draft was adopted, this would be one expensive mistake that Kenyans would have to live with as money that could have been invested in various development programs would then be used to service a ‘bloated bureaucracy’. The ramifications of reversing it would be grave.

“Amending it will be very difficult especially when it involves a constituency because people are already attached to it. You can even create a lot of political instability,” Dr Ikiara cautioned.

If the proposal goes through, Mr Ikiara said the only reprieve would be to grow the economy to ensure it can cater for the additional costs.

“If you listen to the demands that people make, you’d think there’s unlimited resources. Kenya’s GDP is about $30 billion, which is one tenth of the biggest American supermarket, Wal-Mart whose turnover is $300 billion per year,” he explained.

People have to also start making rational decisions such as cutting down on unnecessary expenses and reducing the size of the Cabinet, he added.

“The wananchi also have very unrealistic expectations and it is time they are properly tuned to what is needed to build an economy,” he said pointing to the disruption that the post election violence had on the country and which saw the economic growth which was beginning to mop up many unemployed people decline from 7.1 percent to 1.7 percent.

However with prudent management of the economy and investment in key sectors whose growth would be felt by majority of the population, Mr Ikiara expressed confidence that the country would get back on the recovery path.

“It’s basically sober management of the economy, creating an enabling environment to attract both foreign and domestic investors and also encouraging savings and investments. I think we need to develop a culture where we know that nothing comes easy,” the economist proposed.

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