When Uhuru announced his Big Four, some were impressed, others raised an eyebrow. While of course Kenya has a plethora of outstanding issues impeding its national development, would achieving these four be enough to secure his legacy?
Let us remember Uhuru is in his second and final term; he will have no third chance. Even his greatest critics recognize his commitment to multi-party constitutional democracy. This is not Uganda or Rwanda. There will be no fiddling with the constitution to give Uhuru a third chance. So, the time is now. Or perhaps, as they say in America, “it’s money time.”
In fact, this colloquialism in our circumstances is particularly poignant. If Uhuru is to follow through on his Big Four agenda he’ll need money, and lots of it. Let us recall, what the president believes he can achieve for the nation in his final term of office.
First and foremost, he is desperate to finish his healthcare revolution. The number of insured Kenyans, those who have access to affordable and decent healthcare is at an unprecedented high. Expecting and delivering mothers receive completely free healthcare, while children and the elderly are now looked after like never before. Indeed, one of the great successes of his first term was in the field of healthcare.
Now he must complete the job. Universal Healthcare. Insurance coverage for all. This is something that has eluded some of the largest and richest nations in the world. If Uhuru is to succeed where so many other nations have failed he will, however, need money.
Likewise, with the second piece of his agenda; reinvigorating the Kenyan manufacturing sector. The tools must be provided to the private sector to thrive. We must invest in human capital; skills, education, training and apprenticeships. Human capital though requires real hard capital. It involves tax breaks for the private sector and a heavy investment in the right forms of education. We must attract business and foreign companies while ensuring we have the skilled manpower to fill those jobs when they arrive.
Affordable Housing is perhaps the most expensive of all of Uhuru’s big four agenda. Uhuru and his team know that during his first term, not enough rooves were put over Kenyan heads. As a sovereign nation, the government is responsible for the wellbeing of its citizens, and housing is a basic human right which must be covered. This need not be as expensive as it sounds. Modular housing and basic ‘off the shelf’ structures can be purchased today for thousands of dollars – and not tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
However, when you take the millions of Kenyans that need housing, even the cheapest housing solution leaves a gaping hole in the budget.
The fourth item on Uhuru’s agenda is “Food Security” – perhaps the most basic and obvious issue on any leader’s to do list. This should of course be priority number one. However, when harvests fail, when the rains don’t come, or when global prices undermine our agriculture; backup plans cost money. As do technologies, reforms, and subsidies. One just has to look at how much was spent during the panic of last year’s election season. Without unga on the shelves, the Jubilee Party was in trouble. The maize crisis was solved with quick thinking imports. An expensive short-term solution.
So Uhuru is right to have these items firmly on his agenda. And the one thing they all have in common? They all cost money.
This is why the Big Four Agenda must now become the Big Five Agenda. Defeating corruption is the fifth and anchor issue; solving it will help solve the other four.
For defeating corruption is not just a moral and ethical issue. It can also save us billions of shilling. That is not an exaggeration. Some analysts have estimated that up to 1/3 of our annual budget is lost to corruption every year. A bribe here, a self-assigned tip there. It all adds up.
Uhuru’s moves to rapidly increase transparency and accountability, combined with a real shake up of the prosecuting team is already having an impact.
In particular the new Director of Public Prosecution, Noordin Mohamed Haji, has taken to his role like a duck to water. He is swimming through cases with ruthless efficiency. He has sent a message to Kenya’s crooked few; it is time to protect the many.
Change will not come over night. But we are finally moving in the right direction. Stop the leakage, and the millions saved can be used for the long-term betterment of our nation.
The Big Four agenda, already ambitious, paradoxically can only be achieved by transitioning the Big Four now into the Big Five.