By: BENJI NDOLO
In the past few weeks, Kenyans have been asking the ominous question: Is the country broke?
Those of us who have platforms to discuss national issues have been raising concerns about the government’s borrowing and expenditure.
Indeed, at a breakfast hosted by the Kenya Private Sector Alliance only a few weeks ago, I expressed my concerns to the Central Bank governor around the continued expansion of borrowing, the budget and interest rates, and the spread of poverty.
Let us put things in perspective. When Mr Daniel Moi left the helm in 2001, the total collection by the Kenya Revenue Authority was Sh180 billion.
KIBAKI THE REFORMER
Mr Mwai Kibaki, the economist, came in with a solid agenda and strategy on economic turnaround and growth focusing on the building of infrastructure for better communication and efficiency.
Within five years, the new and reform-oriented Narc administration had not only doubled revenue collection and GDP, Kenya was also enjoying economic growth of over 6 per cent.
This is an enviable achievement and record anywhere in the world. But Kenya is the mother of disparities and continues to struggle with that little problem that led to disenchantment and violence in 2007/2008 — distribution.
Then the borrowing started and accelerated. First it was the Sh1 trillion budget under then Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta, and then Sh2 trillion-plus under the new Finance Cabinet secretary, Mr Henry Rotich.
Our current budget is more than 10 times what it was under Mr Moi a little over a decade ago.
Yet the slums are growing and Kenyan workers and taxpayers are trapped in the gridlock of city traffic jams an average of four hours a day. What is happening?
A flippant, inexcusable approach to governance continues to dog this nation.
Most Kenyans who go into public service have one thing only on their mind: to pillage mali ya uma and ‘eat’ to their fill.
And for this reality, I blame the Kibaki administration for its misstep and grand failure on the Anglo Leasing disaster.
Indeed, that is the time the signal went out that “it’s our time to eat” and woe unto you if you don’t!
As President Kenyatta pointed out a few weeks ago, more than 50 per cent of the national budget is consumed by the top 2 per cent Kenyans in the public service. How? You might ask.
Well just look around at all the swank brand-new fully-loaded Mercedes Benzes, Toyota Prados, Range Rovers, and Land Cruisers. Add to this the travel, tea, sitting, standing, beaching, touring, and training allowances and you get the picture of a government gone mad.
Leadership is not about showing weakness, appeasement, or ultra caution to make political calculations.
It is about putting your foot down, sending the right message, and backing it up with consequences if the rules are breached.
The Auditor-General has come under fire for his warnings on unsupported expenditure, excess borrowing, and outright theft.
Why should the custodian of the public purse be viewed as the enemy when he blows the whistle on malfeasance and corruption at the behest of the people of Kenya?
We have serious challenges in this country, but these are problems that we can overcome.
From lack of resources in hospitals to bad roads in the rural areas, lack of electricity as well as looting in counties, our work is cut out for us.
However, without focus and a sense of purpose, we will collectively fail.
We must insist on fiscal discipline and prudence in spending.
The nonchalant borrow-and-spend culture in the name of infrastructure projects must stop.
Those who are elected and appointed to oversee Kenya’s affairs must stop thinking that the government is a kiosk or a fat pig to be skinned quickly for their gain.
They must think about the youth, who make up the bulk of the population of this country.
They must think about the well being of this great nation 30 years from now.
To not do so is to condemn this country to suffering and poverty and bankruptcy. The financial meltdown in Greece began this way.
We must stop the madness.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION