alexa How opinion polls have caused our fuel crisis and a spike in food prices - Daily Nation

How opinion polls have caused our fuel crisis and a spike in food prices

Friday May 13 2011

 

By KWAMCHETSI MAKOKHA

Genius resides in Kenya’s Parliament. No further proof of this is required after the august House began to debate a motion that could require regulating opinion polls.

Until mid April this year, Kenyans were happy to pay higher prices for food and fuel, and suffer unemployment and hunger without uttering a word.

Had it not been for the city-based polling firm, Synovate, asking Kenyans what they saw as the greatest problem facing the country, 76 per cent of the people would never have raised high fuel prices, the rising cost of living, hunger or unemployment as things that bothered them.

Because of this blatant incitement from pollsters, the Finance minister found himself being bullied into reducing tax on kerosene and diesel by 30 and 20 per cent, respectively.

The Prime Minister would subsequently occasion a further loss in tax revenues by suggesting a total tax waiver on kerosene, thanks to the pollsters.

Had it not been for the pollster, Parliament would not have ended up wasting important snoozing time debating fuel prices and their effect on the cost of goods.

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Nor would the President have been bothered into ordering the Energy and Finance ministers to clear up the confusion over fuel supplies and pricing.

There Kenyans were, trundling along on the road to development, pursuing Vision 2030, spending cash from the Constituency Development Fund and praising their leaders their foresight, then poof! An opinion poll.

This business of constantly consulting public opinion undermines democracy and development.

It hobbles elected leaders and prevents them from taking brave governance decisions. In fact, it is an attempt to intimidate elected leaders in particular and the government in general.

Once the public elects leaders, it should learn to shut up until the next election.

This business of being consulted regularly, being asked if people like the way the government is running or not; whether public officials are performing their duties or not; and whether or not the cases at the International Criminal Court should continue, is all hogwash.

Since the single-party days, elected leaders have done very well by relying on conventional wisdom and personal intelligence to figure out what the people want and how they are likely to behave.

Anything extra is not beyond the local witchdoctor. This business of introducing science into figuring out how people feel, what they are likely to respond to, goes against African culture.

Since opinion requires thinking, a luxury the ordinary citizen has done nothing to earn, collecting it should be illegal.

Only a few people, working under the proper guidance of the government, can ask the public questions, understand the answers and seek permission before releasing the findings.

Although some countries, according to The Freedom to Publish Opinion Poll Results, only place an embargo on releasing findings to give dignity to the democratic process, there is nothing to stop Kenya from clinching a gold medal by creating the severest rules.

It is unfortunate that this polling disease has infected even the National Security Intelligence Service.

Instead of poisoning people, squeezing their nether-parts until they squeal the truth, arranging suicides and other related events, they now also want to conduct opinion polls. Unless polling is made unattractive, the NSIS might not get any work done.

On the basis of efficiency alone, leaders should have better things to do than to sit through rigmaroles about multi-stage stratified sampling, using population proportionate to size, margins of error, and hat like that.

After the tedium of the detail, opinion polls bring no benefit other than to soil the names of popular leaders, smothering their popularity ratings to discourage people from voting for them in the 2012 elections.

Predictions of victory or loss must be left to prophets and seers, who have the appropriate spiritual learning to dabble in such matters. Pollsters would only start shaving the leads off some politicians’ support.

It is this behaviour of shaving the popularity of certain leaders by falsely showing them to have single digit support that sparked the election crisis in 2007.

Had the pollsters not lied about the 2007 election being so close that it was impossible to predict a winner, it would have been unnecessary to protest the results even before they were announced, or for the swift swearing in of the President.

It was the pollsters that subsequently rolled stones to block highways, torched houses, pulled passengers out their vehicles and slaughtered them. Opinion poll companies caused the post-election violence.

As innocent politicians are dragged off to The Hague to answer charges of making movies, pollsters are still asking the public for opinions.

It is a pity that Easter is past, or Kenyans would send a loud and clear message to the ICC: Give us Barabbas!

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