Around this time last year, Kenya was very optimistic about its growth prospects for 2011. In fact, the World Bank had projected that our economy would grow by 5.3percent, which was still less than the 6 percent growth experienced in 2010.
Personally, I was convinced that even higher rates were achievable if the right interventions were put in place. Fast forward to the last quarter of 2011, and growth projections being revised downwards by a percentage point and I wonder … as Kenyans, have we been had?
Have our economic strategies suffered from political machinations at the detriment of our growth? Yes, I do recognise that global food and fuel prices combined with the weakening shilling have been a major contributor to this decline. However, I also know that we’ve been through tougher times and managed to outperform some of our African peer countries and global markets.
My fear is that we are facing major tipping points which could result in catastrophic results if the symptoms are not addressed right away. I put it to you, as a matter of fact, that Kenya is in a situation similar to that of developed nations, perhaps even warranting an ‘Occupy Nairobi’ movement. Yet as an emerging market, our challenges and focus should be entirely different from those of developed nations.
Let’s get this straight. I am not advocating for protests, as I am yet to identify substantial benefit that has arisen solely from the ones in the US and Europe. I am only just pointing out the contributing factors and saying that the situation needs to be arrested immediately if we are to face and emerge victorious from an election year.
The first and perhaps the sorest factor is that of corruption. Coupled with corporate greed, it continues to erode our economic and social fabric. I will state this with utmost authority… that unless we draw a line as to far we will go, Kenya will continue to sink further into depths of depravity; where the 1 percent who own and use 99 percent of the country’s resources, become completely devoid of conscience.
Take for instance, the highly toxic Unimix procured for the ‘Kenyans for Kenya’ initiative. Why should we be trading accusations and counter-accusations if the parties involved have nothing to hide? If anything, I would expect to see a different reaction from anyone who is blameless. By now, we should now be witnessing the medical testing of the affected children.
Discussions should be centred on compensation or refund and perhaps a fund to address future medical problems should be in the process of being set up. Kenyans, we should draw the line here; let us not condone behaviour that plays Russian roulette with the lives of our people.
Aside from food, I do not understand why our government has undertaken to refund donor funds lost the in the FPE scandal. Isn’t that tantamount to double taxation? Do we as citizens also have a right, in this case, to demand for a refund of a similar share of taxes? This is not acceptable.
What about the KKV funds that were allegedly misappropriated? It is saddening that a vision so great can be corrupted so badly as to result in the questioning of our credibility. Personally, I am less concerned about how or who should take political responsibility.
I would like to know what is being done to ensure that the pot of money set aside to create employment for our young people has been refilled and that their future prospects are still intact. I would also hope that we’ll see the funds recovered from the culprits and an accounting of the same done in public limelight.
The other factor that greatly worries me is the rising cost of money. For the hard-working Kenyan, who struggles to improve their livelihood by taking up credit (perhaps to buy land or a property), the approximate doubling of lending rates will no doubt result in loan defaults and consequently exacerbate our economic and social inequalities.
In my opinion, we will be retrogressing to the days of old when Kenyans crumbled under the weight of massive loans whose interest almost equalled the principal amount; where shy locks infiltrated the employee’s workplace because he/she was unable to meet his financial obligations. We will be going back to a time when development was reserved for the super-rich because their liquidity afforded them the means.
It is a worrying factor and coupled with run-away inflation, it means that people are barely surviving. It is worrying because more often than not, when people feel that their hard work is not being rewarded commensurate with their efforts, they often resort to using short-cuts.
We unfortunately begin to experience a rise in opportunistic and targeted crime, financial fraud and other sorts of evils.
What remains true is that the financial sector has a major impact in the lives of a developing nation like us.
It cannot be seen to be hampering personal prospects for growth or as the enemy of development. We need a real solution to this problem fast.
As I said before, such factors are tipping points and the success of Kenya’s economic future (and otherwise) depends on how fast and how adequately they are addressed. We already are facing a political crisis ahead of 2012 elections; let us not allow ourselves to degenerate to the point where citizens may need to ‘Occupy Nairobi.’