LOKENO: Beware, legacy projects could impoverish us - Daily Nation

Beware, legacy projects could impoverish us

Monday September 24 2018

housing

Construction of civil servants' houses in Kisumu County. Affordable housing is part of President Uhuru Kenyatta's Big Four development agenda. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By EPHANTUS LOKENO
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Legacy projects are not good when they have to be achieved hurriedly and with a zeal that is callous to the economic status of the country.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, just like his predecessor, Mr Daniel arap Moi, is keen to leave a legacy for his 10-year tenure.

He has identified food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and universal healthcare as his agenda.

These are the building blocks of a happy and self-sustaining nation. For no nation can claim prosperity when its citizens are hungry, unemployed, unhealthy and live in hovels. The President should, therefore, be commended for his sagacity in identifying that agenda for his second and final term in office.

FOOD SECURITY

Instructively, however, 55 years since Independence, Kenya is yet to become food-secure, attain access to universal healthcare, have most citizens in habitable dwellings, is yet to add value to most of its exports, the poverty index remains staggeringly high and the gap between the rich and the poor is ever widening. Hence the reason the ‘Big Four’ development plan is paramount.

Whereas these projects are fundamental to the posterity of this nation, it is not lost on Kenyans the magnitude of the resources it would take to realise them.

Massive financial resources, extensive human capital, deliberate commitment by public servants, willingness by every citizen to participate and political will are what it would take to achieve them.

It requires proper planning and ample time. Without these two, the other resources are meaningless.

MAJOR PROJECT

It is during the planning stage that the feasibility of a major project is ascertained as a function of time. The President is clearly keen to achieve the ‘Big Four’ in only four years. That is admirable overzealousness!

Much as I do not doubt his ability to deliver, I feel four years is too short a period.

It is obvious the big action plan is a rush-hour undertaking likely to put an excruciating strain on the economy. The value added tax on fuel is one of the many burdens Kenyans will shoulder because of that.

To add salt to injury, Kenya Revenue Authority intends to impose other taxes on small-scale traders next year. With limited time, the President will need a continuous flow of cash. Our economic status, however, cannot promise to sustain the financial demands of those projects.

LARGEST WAGE BILLS

What with one of the largest wage bills in Africa and our political elite being among the highest-paid state officers anywhere!

The President must, therefore, have to starve, especially, recurrent expenditure to sustain a supply of cash.

That being unlikely to happen, borrowing is the only option. It is no secret that the external debt obligation Kenya has is literally sipping its economic sap out of it.

The writing is on the wall. We are second-most indebted country in Africa to China.

INCREASING TAXES

The borrowing has been incessant despite warnings by economic pundits.

The weight of debt is crushing Kenyans. The ever-increasing taxes have had a toll on lives. The cost of doing business in Kenya is the highest in East Africa and the cost of living is rising daily. More is likely to condemn millions of Kenyans to a lifetime of debt, impoverished lives and despondency.

Dr Lokeno is a pharmacist in Nairobi. [email protected]

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