A hot discussion surrounding the government’s decision to make us poorer than we already are, via the housing fund levy, has been raging. I would have trusted the government with more money had they demonstrated prudent use of previous allocations, but since I don’t own a safety deposit box with fake dollars and didn’t travel to Italy to receive my share of the ghost dams, I am not ready to sell any of my organs to fundraise for a housing project that is more mysterious than the death of Tupac.
I have been drawing my priority list for the next five years and I am happy to inform the government that I am already content with my little round hut in the village; I don’t need any help from the government to build me another house. In any case, if I needed an improved dwelling of my own, I would never have allowed this government to choose its location or architectural design for me. This is because we each have our own preferences for our dream. For example, I prefer mine to have a larger in-house library than kitchen, and a larger outdoor space than the living room. The reason we house hunt before we put down a rent deposit is because there are things we cannot compromise on regarding where we think our families should live. The government did not ask for my views on this housing fund levy because they didn’t deem it necessary, and I agree with them. They, therefore, have no reason to force me be part of it. Those who gave their views on this issue should proceed to participate in it and leave those of us who were excluded from the beginning to continue being in the cold. I think it is fair that way.
If the policymakers had bothered to ask, Kenyans would have told them that many of us are choking in debt struggling to finance mortgages running into tens of years. We understand that the government is a card-carrying fan of duplication of roles. Every government ministry has a Chief Administrative Secretary, a policy role that is neither in the Constitution nor is necessary in the execution of government duties. We even have a Cabinet Secretary without portfolio, drawing a monthly salary just for taking tea, and notes during Cabinet meetings. Kenyans are telling the government that if we needed a house, we know where to buy land and build one – and we haven’t asked the government for help because a professional approach to development isn’t their forte.
This government has proven beyond doubt that the only thing they can build successfully, and without controversy, is the corruption superhighway. A quick glance at the list of things the government promised to build, and you will know where your housing fund will end up. The five stadiums we were promised in 2013 are still in the Jubilee portal.
The transformers that were supplied for the Last Mile project were reported to be defective. The police were promised ultramodern housing but have now been asked to use their house allowance to rent houses. And who wants to be reminded of the promise of school laptops that was later downgraded to miniature tablets, and has since been abandoned for computer labs? They pumped Sh7 billion into the Galana-Kulalu food security irrigation project only for the investor to leave the scene after Sh5.9 billion had already been paid out. The weatherman has just warned us that if we don’t get our grain reserves in order this coming year, Kenyans are going to drop like flies from starvation.
With all these grim endings to government mega projects, no one in their right mind would dare throw their good money after bad. Employers are now warning that if they are forced to match employees’ contribution to this housing fund, they will be left with no choice but to lay off staff because they are already grappling with huge expenditures against a shrinking revenue base. I have never met anyone who would prefer living in a nice house but goes to bed hungry every night. You wonder who will live in those houses after this threat of hunger and starvation kills all of us. The government wants to kill us with taxes, as if we haven’t already died of empty promises.
Since I started writing this column, I have been receiving feedback from members of the public from far and wide. Just last week, I received an email from the grandson of Alfayo Odongo clarifying that the Roho spiritual movement, which his grandfather led, was indeed a church and not a sect as I had portrayed in my article last week. It has never been my intention to abuse the privilege of writing for this column. This column exists because of you, and I am more than grateful when you keep me on toes.
Mr Oguda writes on topical is- sues; [email protected]