Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Look beyond the ‘Tena’ argument in race for Kisumu Governor

My vote is not in Kisumu, because I live and work in another city. But I have enormous interest in Kisumu County. I was born and raised here. I went to school here. My folks live here and above all - Kisumu is home, where I want to retire and see my grandchildren run the woods and lawns.  So I have taken the liberty to inform your vote; may be influence it - those of you who are getting ready to vote in the forthcoming ODM Party nominations.
   
Foremost, I am worried that as things are today, it seems as though folks have forgotten the real issues and neglected the tough questions that need to be tackled and are embroiled in cheap clan politics – of who comes from Kano, Seme, Nyakach bla bla. I think this kind of politics is distractive and may keep Kisumu stagnated for another 5 years as other regions in the country harness and realize their potential. 

Kisumu started ahead of many counties in the country – with a huge urban capital, a substantively educated and competitive human capital, a unique fresh water lake resource and a rich agricultural hinterland. What have we done with that? What have we done about that? Perhaps these should be the core questions that occupy our conversations as we look for the best fit personality to elect as Governor.

But going by prevailing conversations re the gubernatorial race - the bar is far too low my folks!

We cannot be debating street lighting as sterling achievements of the Governor of a century old city the caliber of Kisumu. Those are fetes Job Group J officers at the physical planning department should be populating their resumes with. Not the Governor. We cannot be arguing over scores of tractors as top rank achievements of the Governor when Kisumu County has over 10 dead industries with enormous manufacturing and job creation capacity. We cannot be bickering about how many ‘marrum’ roads ‘His Excellency’ has done when peer cities are hosting global mega events while the lake shore remains derelict and an eye sore instead of a vibrant investment opportunity for tourism and real estate development.

I am worried that we have boxed ourselves unnecessarily into an idiographic ‘Ranguma Tena’ corner reducing our possibilities and denying ourselves the opportunity to objectively review our circumstances and consider what alternative leaders are offering.


So far, the campaigns and conversations around the gubernatorial race in Kisumu are consumed by shouting matches about the power of the incumbent - ‘ngat ma pek e ground’. Of course an incumbent always begins from a vantage point. Of course people who have had access to political leadership before come better prepared and with more political capital. But do they always turn out the best? Not always.

My point is that many of us are succumbing to a lazy conditioning that because the incumbent did some things that changed people’s circumstances, they get a free ‘Tena’ ticket to govern again that should not be challenged. Look, we already promulgated a constitution that required devolution of power and transfer of resources to the people. It was inevitable that things were going to change. Whoever occupied the office of Governor – even a pink Avocado was definitely going to change something.

So the argument must move away from reciting anecdotes of change that have come by after 5 years of the incumbent’s leadership to a more serious scrutiny and comparison between what we achieved and what we ought to have achieved considering the power devolved, resources we received and our baseline performance before devolution.

Only one person has had the chance to be Governor of Kisumu County. That is Governor Jack Ranguma. It is nonsensical thus to reduce the basis for judging the best candidate to Governor Ranguma’s accomplishments alone - whatever they are. We cannot shut down other candidates comparing their accomplishments elsewhere with Ranguma’s tenure as Governor. In fact can we ask Governor Ranguma what he had done with his life before April 2013 and compare it with the other candidates?

If we must use what the 1st Governor has achieved as a gauge for his re-election, we must be smart about it. The comparison must thus be with the accomplishments of the other 46 governors in Kenya and those of people who have successfully managed cities and regions across the globe. NOT by what the Governor’s opponents did while in Civil Society, Private sector or wherever.

What has Governor Ranguma done in terms of improving competitiveness of Kisumu city and its attractiveness for serious business, tourism, more population (of students, experts, tourist and entrepreneurs) compared to others in Mombasa, Nairobi, Eldoret, Durban, Singapore, Bilbao etc? How has he performed in the health sector vis a vis other counties in terms of resource allocations for health and conversion of those resources in tangible health sector deliverables like medicine in hospitals, more facilities, reduced waiting time, more efficient health sector personnel and so on?

I feel that we haven’t been fair to the other contestants in our judgment of their capabilities. We have simply shut them down as non-entities and underlings with nothing to offer. And on this I have a bone to chew with journalists or whatever they call themselves in Kisumu. A lot of such people in the ‘media’ in Kisumu have chosen to take sides in a debate that clearly needs a lot of objectivity. And they have advanced underwhelming justifications for their conduct.

You see in our style of government – democracy, we allow an opportunity, after every 5 years, for interested men and women to present themselves and their ideas and credentials for scrutiny to be considered to assume public office. As such, we must allow people to present their ideas – how they intend to change the circumstances of Kisumu people in terms of policy or development programmes.

Can we judge the contestants based on ideas, so that we are fair to those who have not had a chance to be governor? Can we discuss what Governor Ranguma’s ideas for the future are? Where is his manifesto? How does it compare with Prof Nyongo’s or Dr Mc’Obewa’s? How much have we done to expose the ideas of these contestants and facilitated honest and fair conversations about them? I think those who claim to be journalists must be journalists and quit pandering to their constituencies. They have a responsibility, beyond their private interest to inform the public. If they wish to be pundits let them be overt.

My folks, Obama was an underdog. So was King David. Here is my 2 pence advice: allow Dr Mc’Obewa and Asaka Nyangara and anyone else, underdog or otherwise, who musters the courage to present themselves for nomination and election for Governor of Kisumu County in 2017 a fair chance to sell their ideas and capabilities. Broaden the issues you consider to go beyond just the accomplishments of the incumbent to what Kisumu deserves and what all the contestants offer. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Regarding the Doctors' Strike: We are focused on the symptom rather than the Disease

Here is what I think about the #KMPDUjailing and the health sector crisis: 
We are focusing on the symptom rather than the disease. The inability of government to pay civil servants decent wages - be they teachers, lecturers, police, or doctors is due to a more complex syndrome than we seem to appreciate. The syndrome is a manifestation of the following: 
  1. Public money is being misallocated so much so that things that deserve substantive budget shares do not receive while other less crucial ones do. Our budgeting process seems to be allowing far more expenditures than the capacity of our incomes (tax, debt and other non-tax resource streams). Politicians come to government having promised seven heavens – not multimillion stadia, not audacious infrastructure and not free laptops. These things have to be paid for. The net effect is a bloated budget that overburdens national income. The easy thing to do when resources become scarce is to make politically expedient fiscal decisions. Like allow resource investments in projects that politicians want (NYS, Galana, Save Kenya Meat Commission et al) rather than in public goods and services that crucial sectors need. Thats how you end up with budget proposals like the FY2017/18 with an insane deficit of Ksh900 billion! 
  2. Public money is being misappropriated, misapplied, and plainly stolen. So you have resource challenges that mean you cannot fully finance your ambitious budgets, but you still allow public officers to punch holes in public coffers for cabals of thieves in cahoots with government to steal. So now you surely cannot pay decent wages. Because every time you try to increase facilities and commodities for the health sector, some procurement officers at KEMSA and Ministry of Health or some Governor makes sure it is stolen. So every passing year, you deny the need to hire more health sector personnel and to offer better pay because you are spending on facilities and commodities that are perennially looted. And you know it. 
  3. But more importantly. The economy is small and it is stagnant. It is not expanding in tandem with our growing population and our changing consumption behaviors and patterns. So we are fighting and grumbling over low pay or unfair emoluments for public servants when the right thing to do is to expand the economy so that we earn more so that we can have enough to pay public servants decent wages. 
  4. The Civil Service is bloated in unnecessary elements and slim in crucial areas. The people at the IMF and World Bank and others in the Ministry of Finance and planning give the tired excuse that Kenya’s wage bill is far too high and that that is where the problem lies. Well, ask yourself. Is the wage bill stretched by essential services like health and education and internal security (police)? No. In fact each of the government departments in charge of these sectors and union people will tell you how they are grossly understaffed, their personnel sadly underpaid and overworked. So where is the unnecessary civil service force that blows our budgets out of proportion? Begin here: check the number of ministries, departments and authorities and commissions that exist in this country. You will find the answer. There are ministries with tens of authorities that you will never understand what value they add. For example in Agriculture you will find all manner of authorities – for research, for extension, for marketing, for disease control for whatever. Yet if you ask farmers and folks in the value chains of many agricultural products in Kenya they will tell you how they struggle with such small problems as ticks, and pesticides. Or better still. Why do you run two parallel governments? You have Governors running Counties, and then you have County Commissioners (with their little cheeky 'county governments') apparently reporting to the President (National Government) in all the counties as well. they all gobble up pubblic money. Never mind the value they add to efficiency and responsiveness of our system of government. 

My point is: If you want to pay civil servants breaking their backs teaching our children, securing our neighborhoods and providing healthcare for our families – you must be ready to do the right thing. Decide whether you are serious about providing those services. Then get down to business. You could start here: 
  1. Put a cap on what an incoming government can introduce so that they do not overstretch the budget with new projects that end up denying equally, in fact more important services much needed funding 
  2. Stop corruption. Prosecute people who steal public resources, recover what they steal and institute serious measures to discourage further theft and misapplication of public money 
  3. Rationalize the public service – so that sectors receive a fair share of public servants and commensurate resource allocations for their compensation 
  4. Wean the country off the idea that government is where work is. An effective government’s job should be to facilitate private sector to create employment that pays people decent wages. Not itself the main employer. Invest in and improve government services and goods that expand the private sector. And kill that silly idea of building an economy on government tenders and handouts to the youth.

My 2p opinion



Wednesday, 13 January 2016

2015 wasn't that bad. Cheers to another 365!
I took time to review some of the commentaries on various media in 2015. Some quite substantive and thought provoking discussions across a range of topics from the Ebola Crisis, to South Sudan, Chinese development co-operation, debt and public finance management, regional integration and trade, WTO 10th Min Summit in Nairobi, Kenya's middle income status, and the SDGs. Details and links here-under:  
Type of coverage
Organisation
Topic
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - Print
Business Daily - Kenya
Media - Print
The Standard - Kenya
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
Ebru Africa - TV
Media - TV
Ebru Africa - TV
Media - TV
Ebru Africa - TV
Media - TV
Ebru Africa - TV
Media - TV
Ebru Africa - TV
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - Print
The Star - Kenya
Media - Print
The Standard - Kenya
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media - TV
CNBC Africa
Media – TV
CNBC - Africa
Media - Blog
Development Initiatives
Media – Blog
ODI
Media – Blog
Spy Ghana
Media – Blog
Open Development Toolkit
Media – Blog
Open Knowledge Foundation

Friday, 26 June 2015

Does NTSA realise it could be impoverishing many for as long as it keeps Embassava suspended?

Granted the public transport sector in Kenya requires tighter regulation and enforcement of laws to keep Kenyans safe. But does the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) realise that it could be impoverishing very many people for as long as it keeps Embassava suspended?


Here is a succinct background to the story: A bus belonging to one of the SACCOs that run public transport in Kenya Embassava SACCO had a gruesome accident on Jogoo Road in Nairobi two days ago. Reactively, the NTSA moved in to investigate the accident and the SACCO. The NTSA then decided that the SACCO had not been complying with NTSA regulations – particularly employment regulations of their drivers and conductors. It thus suspended operations of all Embassava SACCO buses and instructed the Nairobi Traffic commandant to impound any Ebassava SACCo vehicle spotted on the road. See story: NTSA suspends Embassava 


Anyhow, laws and government policy are enacted and enforced for the common good of improving the lives of citizens. It would be unfortunate if enforcement of policy rudely fails to consider the implications on the lives of the people such laws are working to improve.

There is a concept I learnt in my Urban Development classes - that when government is unable to create jobs (like the one in Nairobi Kenya), the least it should do is avoid destroying existing ones, especially informal sector jobs.

Thus far, the hundreds of Embassava Sacco buses remain grounded. The implications are far reaching. Consider the incomes foregone by many of the bus owners who probably have complied with NTSA and traffic regulations. Consider the employment opportunities currently hanging on the balance. Consider what the many people employed by the buses in SACCO are currently doing to earn their daily bread?

Imagine the working Kenyan who took out a loan to buy a bus that's now not generating revenue - two days in a row yet is expected not to default on their installments.
Imagine the bus driver who won’t take home food today?
Imagine the bus conductor who will probably resort to funny ways of getting his income for today?
Imagine the 'mama mboga' who depends on these touts and drivers for her sales.

Government officers must recognise that enforcing regulations and government policy or legislation affect the lives of ordinary people in profound ways. There is a sense of arrogance and combativeness that NTSA and traffic police exude that is unethical and insensible. People are bound to commit traffic offences, that is why the NTSA exists, that is why traffic police are paid by tax payers.

I personally do not believe that NTSA and traffic police never can amicably agree on how to penalise traffic offenders without meting havoc on public transport users like Embakasi people have been experiencing in the past two days.

There must be better ways to enforce public transport safety regulations without destroying jobs and jeopardising people's livelihoods! NTSA must consider implications of enforcing public transport safety regulations on the lives on ordinary citizens.






Friday, 22 May 2015

Illicit financial flows squandering the fortunes of our future generations

If you have been having trouble trying to wrap your head around the mystery real estate boom in Kenya, or the 8 range rover sports you meet per Km on Mombasa road of late, there could be an answer here.

Read Bob Okande Austine​'s - 'Money laundering: The tag real estate can’t shake off' and Lilian Merab Mwakio​'s - 'Kenya loses over Sh600bn every year in tax evasion'. Then put that together with the Kshs300 billion the Auditor General perennially reports unaccounted for without answers - 'Sh500b State funds cannot be accounted for, says Auditor General Edward Ouko

The graph below illustrates the illicit financial flows, unaccounted public funds compared to other streams finances to Kenya. Migrant remittances data obtained from World Bank's Prospects; external debt data from World Banks - International Debt statistics 2015 report; FDI and exports data from UNCTAD; Official Development Assistance data from OECD-DAC's Creditor Reporting System; and unaccounted for public funds data from Kenya National Audit Office (KENAO).   




Are people laundering contraband money, evading tax and stealing from public coffers then showing up looking cool, flaunting 'hard earned legit investments'?
OR Is our economy genuinely growing and increasingly profitable to private enterprise?



Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The spat between Dambisa Moyo and Bill Gates and its relevance to Mrs Kenyatta’s #BeyondZero

So Bill Gates claimed that Dambisa Moyo’s book Dead Aid ‘promotes evil’ and that she knows little about aid. And Dr Moyo responded (in her blog) that she got a PhD in economics and wide experience, how about Bill?




Reading through the articles about this confrontation, I couldn’t help but relate with the ongoing debate in Kenya regarding the appropriateness of the #BeyondZero campaign aiming to mobilise donations to improve maternal health sponsored by Kenya’s 1st Lady Mrs Kenyatta. There are those who laud the good lady for such a noble initiative. Then there are those like my friend Rita Oyier who rightfully ask: ‘Why should I pay taxes then run again” – alluding to the fact that if public finances were better managed, we would not need marathons and donations to fund maternal health.

The tragedy with the aid debate remains the fact that there are a bunch of skeptics (the likes of Bill Easterly and Dambisa Moyo) on one side and another lot of maniacs (the likes of Sachs and Gates) on the other end shouting at the top of their voices and preventing honest, factual debate on aid.  We know that neither of them is absolutely right.

Whilst aid has alleviated suffering (especially in humanitarian crises), improved infrastructure and promoted better institutions for governance and management of the public sector in Sub-Sahara; it has also distracted governments from effective Domestic Resource Mobilisation, economic diversification, or private sector development that would provide sustainable solutions to the problems aid has dealt with.

But aid skeptics (like Dambisa Moyo) fail to provide practical, logical, credible alternatives.

Dr Moyo benefited from aid in the form of scholarship to earn her Havard education (like many Africans continue to do). Bill Gates should know that countries like Burundi have up to 40% of their budgets funded by Official Development Assistance not because they cannot increase domestic revenues but more because aid has been made available.  

So calling aid ‘dead’ (Dr Moyo) or claiming that the book ‘Dead Aid’ promotes evil (Gates) does not help.



On the Kenyan example re - #BeyondZero. I think the campaign is well intended but the First lady could use her influence (being the person who goes to bed every night with the holder of the policy pen), to institutionalize a stronger, more effective and sustainable solution to financing maternal health in Kenya. 
She could begin with sponsoring a bill to increase and ring-fence maternal health funding in the annual budget. 
What happens when another 1st lady comes who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about maternal health? Michael Jackson and a constellation of stars sang ‘We are the world’ in 1995 to mobilise resources for Sudan. Is the problem solved today? Billions of dollars was donated to support Haiti after the devastating earthquake, but has the problem been addressed?


I am for complementarity. Neither aid nor the market/growth focused approaches will succeed in isolation. But if we complement prudent Public Finance Management with effective development cooperation, we have a chance. 

My 2pence!


Monday, 16 February 2015

On the ensuing Digital Migration debacle - Kenya Govt (CAK) Vs ADN Consortium

1.  It’s simple arithmetic – who loses most from the continued switch-off of SG, NMG and RMS? Ask yourself what immediate gains the GoK would accrue from the hasty migration to digital; in terms of revenues? media space for Kenyans? investment? trade? And what does the government lose: - revenue dips, eminent job loses, shrinkage of media space as the coalition members continue the shutdown. Do the math. It is not the government, neither is it so much the media - its Kenyans on the losing. Those of you who will soon be laid off; those of you who are bored stiff because you have no DSTV to watch todo sobre? Those of you who will not get public services because KRA failed to reach revenue targets because in some month in 2015 – some media houses were making loses.

2. Whilst governments elsewhere, in both the developed and developing world endear themselves to investors, make doing business easy, ours is actively stifling business and pushing away existing investors and crowding out potential ones. Why, because of egocentric tea-cup storms between a state agency and private sector!

3.  Granted we need an effective and efficient regulatory environment for the media – but at what cost? Granted we need to open up to the opportunities that digital migration portends, but at what cost? It is in the interest of government and the obligation of government to ensure that a speedy and lasting solution is found.

4.  So you hear Information Cabinet sec ranting how right government is and how wrong the ADN coalition is, you wonder why finance cabinet secretary – and all the folks that spend endless sums of tax payer money ‘wooing investors’ aren’t say a thing.

5.  These media houses have themselves succeeded in showing Kenyans how much they don’t matter. This should serve as a lesson to them – that as much as its business, it is the kind that is dependent on effective institutions of governments - which ‘the people’ have a way of influencing. A decade ago – people would have been on the streets protesting this switch off. But the ordinary Kenyan today has been showed the middle finger so much by these media houses, in the conduct of their coverage that no one gives a hoot.


6.  This is from my conspiracist closet. Come to think of it – aren’t these media houses the same ones largely controlled and bankrolled by Kenya’s cabal of current politicians? Why haven’t people pulled the ropes to save their businesses?