BY MOSES KURIA
Last Sunday we celebrated Mashujaa Day. It is a day we dedicate to the gallant men and women who sacrificed life and limb, fun and freedom, so that we, the current generation can enjoy the liberties that abound today.
From Jomo Kenyatta to our own iron lady Mekatilili wa Menza, from Dedan Kimathi to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, from Koitalel arap Samoei to Paul Ngei we are a nation that has been born of the loins of men and women who well understood that a better tomorrow is the fruit of the seeds of today’s sacrifice.
The same sacrifice and forward thinking that our founding fathers and mothers had 50 years ago requires to be replicated by our generation. It is imperative that we have an imaginary fast forwarding of time and ask ourselves what the next generation will be saying of us on Mashujaa Day, 50 years to come.
Whilst there are challenges that abound, it is very encouraging to note that the Jubilee government is still on course to building the house that the future generation will be proud of, brick-by-brick, block-by-block, day-by-day.
Last week, I attended the launch of the new scheme that requires all public procuring entities – both ministries and parastatals – to reserve 30 percent of all tenders to enterprises run by the youth, women and persons living with a disability.
When this policy was mooted through the Jubilee Manifesto, many doubted that it was feasible, much less achievable. It speaks volumes about the effectiveness and resolve of the Jubilee Government that this ambitious programme is being rolled out within the first six months of this government.
The 30pc rule will undoubtedly change this country for good. The impact of this seemingly simple and mundane policy change will be felt for generations to come. For far too long, doing business with the government has been the exclusive preserve of a selected few, predominantly old, prevalently able-bodied male.
For the first time in the history of our nation, a young Kenyan, a woman or a visually impaired person can walk to the procurement managers of ministries and State corporations and use provisions of the law, rather than ethnic affiliation to claim tenders. These groups, long disadvantaged in all spheres of our national life can now do business with the government not out of the size of the bribe coming from their wallets but out of the quality of ideas oozing from their heads.
Thirty years ago, the leaders of the South East Asian countries embarked on a series of policy changes to propel their economies to long-term growth. Within a decade, the economies were experiencing unprecedented growth and earning the title of ‘Asian Tigers’.
There are three reasons why we think the 30pc rule is our ‘Asian Tigers’ moment. First, the transparent effect. Thanks to this rule, Kenyans will get to understand how government procurement works.
A process that has erstwhile been shrouded in mystery will be open to scrutiny by a 19-year old young girl from Teso. It will no longer be a favour to give her access to tenders. It will be her right. Add to that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s promise to start a digital website to report any case of procurement officers demanding for bribes.
This transparency will not be enjoyed by the youth and women only. It will also benefit 56 year old Joseph Onyango, a fisherman from Usenge, Siaya County who had no idea how one can sell goods and services to serikali.
The second reason is the distributive effect of the 30pc rule. As the President said during the launch, to empower the youth and women is to empower society. Thanks to this rule, a minimum of Sh200 billion will pass from the ‘haves’ who were enjoying the monopoly of doing business with government to millions of ‘have-nots’ who were kept out of meaningful economic participation for decades.
We are have been complaining of our deep and growing rich-poor divide in this country. This rule strikes a serious blow to the heart of inequality.
Finally, this rule is our ‘Asian Tiger’ moment because of its multiplier effect. It is not just about moving money from the pocket of Hassan to that of Naliaka. It is also about growing the cake. When we put money into the pockets of youth, women and persons with disability, we are ultimately improving the purchasing power of many Kenyans. So therefore Mwikali the clothes vendor can sell more clothes, Ole Sakuda can have a better market for goats and Mama Oliech can increase her customer base by several multiple factors.
Therefore as we celebrate Mashujaa Day, I applaud the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto for this revolutionary idea. I commend Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru for proving that ideas are of no use without precision in execution.
Together, they have made us believe that we can not only match but exceed what the likes of Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohammed achieved. And all this within our lifetime. It is simply unbelievable!
(The writer comments on public affairs and policy matters)