The rescinding of the Transport ministry’s directive that all cargo from the Port of Mombasa be transported upcountry by the standard gauge railway (SGR) is good news for the coastal region.
It comes at a time when transporters, their truck drivers and other employees were outraged by the directive.
Coast leaders had condemned the directive as a plot to impoverish residents and ruin the local economy.
Hosting the region’s biggest port, locals see anything that reduces their involvement in cargo clearance and transportation as unfairly targeting them.
It is gratifying that the authorities have heard the cries of the people.
Though encouraging cargo transportation by SGR, it is unfair to force it on anyone.
Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia’s decision to give traders a choice on transportation is commendable.
This is a country that cherishes the free market economy.
And since the government is not motivated by profit, its overriding objective being to provide services to the people, it should shun decrees and offer concessions and incentives.
While the SGR has been built with huge loans that need to be serviced, the solution is not such draconian measures. There are Kenyans who have invested their lifetime earnings or taken out loans to buy trucks and run cargo transport businesses.
It’s unfair for their own government to lock them out of their source of livelihood. If the aim of the directive was to remove the heavy trucks that damage roads, there are better ways of doing that.
Some may call this eating humble pie but it is just a practical demonstration that the government cares for all its people as hundreds of jobs could have been lost.
The transporters must now make use of the reprieve to enhance efficiency and contribute to growing the economy of the coastal region.