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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Costly toys for starving kids

The kids enjoying their new toys../FILE
The kids enjoying their new toys../FILE

With the elections approximately four months away, the government is, and must be, in overdrive. Everything is positioned around convincing Kenyans that the Jubilee government has made sincere attempts to fulfil its election manifesto.

This is the period when images of structures will be projected on Kenyans, using the latest HD cameras and narrated in soft clear voices, to drive the point home.

So far, the government has not disappointed. The launch last week of a website, aptly named ‘portal’, was a national event. This, presumably, was to make it possible for Kenyans within and without our borders to have a glimpse of ‘mega-development’ in the comfort of their palms, or laps.

Well, it is a hard to commend this step, since we need no website, portal or domain name to feel what the administration has done.

For four years, Jubilee has made a valiant effort to project an image of a government keen on changing the infrastructural face of Kenya. Projects of grandeur and mind-boggling budgets have been launched with their attendant glamour. Electricity has been made available to roofless structures in the driest parts of this nation.

The laptops promise was swiftly swapped with even more glamorous and catchy tablets, albeit in a scattered manner. My former primary school, in the sleepy village of Gaturiri, is yet to ‘double-tap’ on these gadgets. The stadia commitment is yet to take shape, though the President has maintained that they will build three world-class stadia in about four months.

Well, fundamentally, the Jubilee government may go down as that administration which rolled out projects on a deficiency of a cost-impact assessment. Most of these projects are done on loans.

The debt figure can easily attest to this. We currently owe our ‘development’ partners a staggering Sh4 trillion,up from Sh1.9 trillion in April 2013. So, if these projects do not trigger productive economic reactions all over the country, where will the cash to repay the loans come from?

All factors remaining constant, the projects done by any government must be designed to spur economic growth in any nation.

Before borrowing the money to pay for the SGR, the authorities should have done an assessment of the direct jobs created, another analysis of the savings made by importers, maybe scrutiny of the man-hours saved by using the train and other trickle down effects to benefit the communities living near the railway.

On electricity, there is no need to expand the current ineffectiveness displayed by Kenya Power. Why, for God’s sake, should we pass the agony of regular blackouts on to others? The money lost by small businesses due to constant power failures can actually provide the same people with basic items such as food.

The government indicates that they have created more than two million jobs for the youth. Well, three-quarters of my age-mates are jobless. Another significant percentile is tied in under-employment, placed in jobs that do not either cover their skills or provide any inspirational compensation.

The prices of unga and milk are at an all-time high. Potatoes are a rarity, even as farmers in Kinangop complain of diminished markets. The story is the same in Rift Valley, where maize is rotting in farms as we receive food donations from arid countries.

The Galana-Kulalu irrigation scheme was a grand project that is now wasting away as people starve.

The image I’m straining to paint is that of a cash-strapped Kenyan faced with the high cost of living, but surrounded with monumental structures. Job signs have not increased, and the prices of essential food items have gone up, even as ‘hustlers’ are promised a better life.

As Ephraim Njega recently quipped on Facebook, this government will ignite the memory of a father who brought high-end toys to his starving children.

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