KAKAMEGA, Kenya, Oct 9 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has reiterated the government’s commitment to revive the stalled Webuye paper factory but challenged local investors to put up similar plants to reduce the worrying poverty index in the region.
He censured the local business community for failing to invest locally and promote the regional economy towards the alleviation of the vicious cycle of poverty which has since independence dogged the high potential area.
“Let me assure you that the government is working round the clock to facilitate the revival of the collapsed Webuye Paper mills but we must think out of the box and establish similar companies under the management of the locals” the premier said.
He told the first ever Western Province Investment Conference that time was ripe for the local community to embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship to accelerate the development agenda rather than wait for government intervention.
Mr Odinga expressed concern that none of the three major companies in western province were locally owned yet the residents languished in poverty despite the fact that the region was enormously endowed.
“We are going to restore operation of the paper mill and also look into ways of installing modern and cost effective equipment at the sugar companies so that their operation are in tandem with modern demands,” he said.
The PM urged the native business community to rise to the occasion and venture into the industrial production of locally available raw materials for job creation and the general promotion of the local economy.
The frank speaking premier at the same time censored the local communities over extravagance in spending resources during funerals of departed kin at the expense of investment prospects.
He argued that tangible economic ventures which could improve the living standards of the community were always shelved and in many a times accorded lip services owing to the under development in the highly promising region.
“We must change our attitude and focus on the future because as things look now we value the dead more than the living. We must use the same gusto to pull resources during these funeral funds drive to the advantage of an economically viable course” Mr Odinga said.
He however regretted that communities in the western region of the country spent fortunes in burial expenses but were lax to consolidate resources for collective investment opportunities which remained unexploited to date.
Mr Odinga advised fellow countrymen to positively exploit their ethnic diversity to push the development agenda within their locality since settler communities imported their unique ways to the host community.
The premier announced government plans to improve the local infrastructure to woo both local and foreign investors in the region which he said had potential in sugar, hospitality and horticultural industry especially that an international airport was under construction in the neighbouring Kisumu city.
He told the conference held at the Masinde Muliro University College that Western province was endowed with a favourable climatic condition and rich arable soil texture that could be exploited for commercial purposes.
Mr Odinga encouraged the communities to adopt land consolidation principles with a view to tackle the worrying population density in the area arguing that other countries opted for the concept to free factors of production for commercial gain.
He at the same time discouraged local communities to discard the white collar job syndrome and instead venture into self employment initiative to minimize the pile up of idle youth in the job market.
The Premier made it clear that opportunities for civil service vacancies were limited to a few fortunate individuals who secured such opportunities through retirement and natural attrition but the figures were unlikely to exceed the a hundred mark annually.
“The public service can only accommodate less than 350,000 employees at any given time while more than 750,000 school leavers hit the job market annually and it is a fact that less than 10,000 people get the public jobs,” he explained.
Mr Odinga encouraged residents to take the risk and take credit facilities for investment in priority areas instead of “waiting for the Government to establish a public ran plant within their locality” for the benefit of the populace.
The conference which aimed to map out ways of unlocking investment potentials in the region ostensibly to emancipate the province economically was graced by 17 Members of parliament from western Province including deputy premier Musalia Mudavadi.
Others were Cabinet Ministers Paul Otuoma, Wycliffe Oparanya, Soita Shitanda and Attorney General Amos Wako.