Equating a person to a shilling does humanity much disservice

Senators in the chamber during a special sitting on March 31, when the Senate debated the Division of Revenue Bill 2020. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Marginalised counties partly have low population because many immigrated to the more developed urban areas where access to services is better.

The current CRA formula, which determines revenue allocation among counties, is CAi = 0.45PNi + 0.26ESi + 0.18PIi + 0.08LAi + 0.02FEi + 0.01DFi. Population is PNi and already accounts for 45 per cent of the basis of allocation and is the main basis of the formula.

ESi (Equal Share factor), PIi (Poverty), LAi (Land), FEi (Fiscal Effort) and DFi (Development) are given much less importance than population. So, those talking about “one man, one shilling” are misleading Kenyans.

Looking at poverty levels, the CRA formula is designed to be fair and equitable, irrespective of population size. Marginalised counties partly have low population because many immigrated to the more developed urban areas where access to services is better.

Land mass accounts for only eight per cent. What would a population-based approach mean for vast counties where one school or hospital isn’t sufficient as residents have to walk hundreds of kilometres to reach these basic essentials?


The one man one shilling advocates say people shouldn’t get “free money” as their counties are more productive. Yet the formula accounts for FEi (Fiscal Effort), which incentivises counties that increase revenue and exercise fiscal prudence.

Remember, good infrastructure is a prerequisite for fiscal productivity. That’s why the formula also looks at Development Index (DFi) infrastructure, including access to water, electricity and roads, to capture infrastructural needs.

Since when railways, roads, schools and hospitals were built in the urban areas by the colonial government, the marginalised regions lived with nothing for decades. They inherited almost zero infrastructure. They need to catch up, and that’s what the CRA formula was designed for.

Take the case of Mombasa and Lamu, which are similar communities. Mombasa was a provincial headquarters that had many schools, roads and hospitals. Lamu has to build them by themselves. Would it be fair to ignore the head-start Mombasa had and remove development factor in the formula?


On population, many Lamu residents migrated to Mombasa decades ago seeking a “better” future. Lamu continued having a reduced economy, poor education levels and higher poverty rates.

On land mass, Mombasa is a small island with a bridge to the mainland and Lamu seven inhabited islands with no bridges. It costs Sh2,000 by taxi to get from one end of Mombasa to the other but Sh40,000 by speedboat in Lamu. Would it, therefore, be fair to ignore land mass?

So the one man one shilling online debate is a concerning, disturbing, and retrogressive against the agenda of peace and unity, which the Constitution sought to redress. The formula already was designed to address many historical injustice concerns, why take us back?

Samia Omar Bwana, development consultant, Nairobi.