Do not call Kenyans beggars, give them global basic income

Monday May 27 2019

Inua Jamii cash transfer

Elderly people follow during the launch of Inua Jamii cash transfer programme in Nyeri in 2017. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KALTUM GUYO
By KALTUM GUYO
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A young Kenyan man suggested on social media recently in relation to the runaway corruption that, instead of having leaders spend money on development on our behalf, those funds should be put in our pockets tukajipange (so we can sort ourselves out).

CASH TRANSFER

I couldn’t have agreed more. Unbeknown to him, his words echoed those of civil society groups suggesting that states consider giving citizens unconditional basic income.

The Global Basic Income (GBI) aims at reducing global poverty. It’s aimed at helping to cover basic needs such as shelter, food and clothing.

Kenya is, arguably, one of the most unequal societies with 43.6 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, according to the World Bank’s Poverty Perception Index (PPI) report on Kenya in 2018. A World Bank report says “Kenya has made significant political, structural and economic reforms that have largely driven sustained economic growth, social development and political gains over the past decade. However, its key development challenges still include poverty, inequality and climate change.”

Given its poverty challenges, it’s not surprising that Kenya was among the first countries where GBI was piloted, with success recorded in Rarieda, Siaya County. It was tested through an unconditional cash transfer programme.

According to Innovation for Poverty Action (IPA), the organisation behind the research, “the programme had significant welfare-improving impacts, both economically and psychologically, for cash transfer recipients”.

Right to life, social security and adequate standard of living are enshrined in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These rights are also stipulated as Bill of Rights in Chapter Four of the Constitution. It is, therefore, imperative for the State to feel challenged by the level of poverty in the country and adopt GBI for the citizens.

INSATIABLE GREED

‘Welfarism’ in Europe has helped in addressing poverty and other social challenges, though not without hitches. Of late, many European countries have cut their welfare budget, leaving many citizens struggling. Hence, GBI is being touted as the best model of addressing the gap between the rich and poor globally.

Kenya has a golden chance to leapfrog other countries — as it did in digital banking through M-Pesa — by adopting GBI as one way to help millions of citizens stuck in poverty. The Inua Jamii cash transfer programme has been helpful to many senior citizens and a good programme to emulate.

Kenya is ready to address poverty through social welfare. Politicians, therefore, need to stop their insatiable greed and consider the plight of the poor Kenyans, who deserve better quality life just like them.

It is scandalous for the greed by MPs to be left unchecked in every Parliament. The justification that they give, that the raise would help them to shoo off begging Kenyans from their doorstep, does not hold water.

What the country needs is for Parliament to fight for policies to create economically-independent citizens. Sharing the national wealth fairly would ensure generations grow up in an equitable society. What the MPs are advocating is a vicious circle of poverty for generations. Besides, raising their allowances so that they can throw peanuts at their constituents does not give dignity, honour or economic empowerment to citizens.

SMASH AND GRAB

Kenyan MPs are among the highest-paid. They do not need or deserve any more. The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) should consider freezing allowances for politicians for the next 20 years to improve earnings for the other public servants.

The gap between the living wage of the highest-paid public servant and the lowest earner is huge. It needs to be narrowed to improve the standard of living of most public servants. That would cut down on corruption at the bottom cadre of the workforce. It would also clean up our politics. It has become bloody, murderous and dangerous, where crooks are inspired to go into politics to steal as quickly and as much as possible to enrich themselves.

Having some of our politicians mired in corruption, fraud and land grabs shows they have no integrity or honour. Their sole aim is to loot to their fill.

It is imperative that the nation stands firm and says No to the brazen ‘smash and grab’ synonymous with our successive Parliaments.

Politicians need to concern themselves more with ‘ugali na sukuma’ (loosely translated, bread and butter) issues affecting Kenyans than pursuing their selfish agendas. The allowances they demand for themselves at every Parliament should be enough to help address inequality in the country.

Giving GBI to financially struggling citizens would be the best place to start for MPs to prove their mettle as bona fide people’s representatives.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo

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