Over the past five years or so, we have been inundated with cries to the effect that our government is broke. Over and over again, especially when public servants agitate for better pay, the government indicates in no uncertain terms that it is broke and cannot afford to raise salaries any further. Indeed, ‘bloated wage bill’ has become a predictable response from government functionaries every time there is a labour dispute in the public sector.
As persons with scientific minds, we tend to use past and current observations to predict the probability of future events, given similar circumstances. Under the circumstances, we would obviously assume that any time a matter requiring extra government expenditure comes up, the response would be the same, that there is no money and the “wage bill is bloated”.
We would expect that no new project occasioning State expenditure would be initiated under these circumstances, and we would not even have to talk about the necessity of austerity measures because this would be obvious. The same persons with scientific minds observing this country would conclude that our processes of decision-making are completely irrational. It would appear that it is impossible to predict our country’s next financial move, which creates such a degree of uncertainty that it is a wonder anyone with money is willing to speak with our government.
The only logical conclusion one would arrive at is that anyone discussing investment or loans with our government is interested in exploiting our ignorance, or is laundering money they have earned outside the confines of any legal or moral code.
A number of examples will suffice to illustrate this.
A broke government takes a huge loan from European financial institutions purportedly to support infrastructure projects. Subsequent inquiries demonstrate clearly that no one knows exactly what infrastructure projects the money was used on. In fact, it appears that a huge chunk of the money disappeared into thin air, while a similarly significant amount was used to support recurrent expenditure.
Secondly, the same broke government enters into an agreement with a foreign State to take another loan to build a new railway on the flawed assumption that the thing would pay for itself within a very short time by forcing everyone travelling or moving stuff to or from the coast, to use the railway. Large amounts of tax money are sunk into the project, and soon it becomes clear that it is impossible to force anyone to use any means of transport, and the money can, therefore, not be recovered within the projected period.
Thirdly, another arm of government, in complete contravention of constitutional and legal provisions, adjusts their own pay upwards and goes ahead to pay themselves as they see fit.
The same broke government also adjusts the compensation of its senior officers and proceeds to pay them, all within the context of widespread industrial unrest in the public service.
It is therefore clear that financial decision-making in government is inconsistent with the alleged ‘brokeness’ of the same government. It would also be safe to say that, by its actions, government is fuelling industrial unrest among its employees. As we have argued before, it would appear that either certain elements in government are interested in its downfall, or responsible persons are ignorant of the impact of their decisions on the government’s standing.
Lukoye Atwoli is former Associate Professor, Psychiatry, at Moi University School of Medicine; [email protected]