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Monday, September 3rd, 2018

 

 Sh1.8trn set aside for Kenya's 5-year climate change programme

By OUMA WANZALA
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Sporadic weather changes being experienced in the country are the target of an ambitious Sh1.8 trillion programme set to be rolled out under the Ministry of Environment.

The government is preparing to unveil the five-year ambitious climate change action plan which will seek to restore water catchment areas, boost afforestation and ensure clean environment.

Documents seen by the Nation show that a National Climate Change Council, to be chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta, which will be responsible for overall coordination of climate change affairs, including guiding the implementation of National Climate Change Action Plan 2018-2022.

It follows concerns that climate change will negatively impact the country’s future development and achievement of the goals of Kenya Vision 2030 — the long-term development blueprint — and the government’s Big Four Agenda.

It could frustrate the focus on ensuring food and nutritional security, affordable and decent housing, increased manufacturing and affordable healthcare.

SUPPORT INNOVATION

According to the document, the plan will also see Sh11 billion used to support technology and innovation, new laws and public education among the citizens.

“Food security is threatened through climate change-driven declines in agricultural productivity,” the document says.

It adds: “Health is impacted by an increase in vector-borne diseases (including malaria and cholera), housing and manufacturing are impacted by damage to infrastructure (including homes, business, schools, and hospitals) caused by flooding and storm events.”

The policy notes that the risk of malaria and other vector-borne diseases is projected to increase due to changing climatic conditions.

Approximately 13 to 20 million Kenyans are at the risk of contracting malaria, with the number likely to rise as climate change facilitates the movement of malaria transmission up the highlands, and increases the transmission intensity in areas where malaria already occurs.

CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION

The programme outlines programmes and strategies for adaptation and mitigation for July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2023.

It is a comprehensive plan that enables all sectors to act to achieve climate change adaptation and mitigation objectives, support the achievement of the Big Four Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals. It also gives priority to adaptation actions because of the devastating impacts of droughts and floods, and the negative effects of climate change on vulnerable groups in the society including women, elderly people, the disabled, children, youth, and minority or marginalised communities.

The programme also seeks to undertake actions, where possible, to limit greenhouse emissions to ensure that the country achieves its mitigation Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement and enable actions to be undertaken in an integrated manner to address several priorities.

Some of the actions include planting trees and contributing to disaster risk management, water, and food security objectives.

REDUCE RISK

According to the plan, the priority is to reduce risks to communities and infrastructure resulting from climate-related disasters such as droughts and floods.

The actions will seek to increase the number of households and entities benefiting from devolved adaptive services, improve the ability of people to cope with drought and floods and increase infrastructural resilience besides improving the coordination and delivery of disaster risk management activities.

“The impacts of climate-related disasters are felt at the household level through food insecurity, damage to property and increased prices of food and fuel and at the national level, where scarce government resources are re-allocated to address the impacts of disaster at the expense of other programmes,” reads the plan.

According to the report, drought conditions in late 2017 and early 2018 left 3.4 million people severely food insecure and an estimated 500,000 people without access to water.

INCREASE FOOD SECURITY

The second priority of the action plan is to increase food and nutrition security by enhancing productivity and resilience of the agricultural systems in as much low-carbon manner as possible.

Actions will be to improve crop productivity through the implementation of climates-mart actions, improve crop productivity by increasing the acreage under efficient irrigation, increase productivity in the livestock and fisheries sectors through implementation of climate-smart actions and enable people to adjust to a changing climate.

The programme also seeks to have greenhouse gas emissions of 2.61 MtCO2e by 2022 through agroforestry, minimum tillage systems, manure management and efficiency in livestock management.

It will also strive to enhance resilience of the Blue Economy and the water sector by ensuring access to and efficient use of water for agriculture, manufacturing, domestic, wildlife and other uses.

WATER AVAILABILITY

Some of the actions to be taken in this regard include increasing annual per capita water availability through the development of water infrastructure, climate-proof water harvesting and water storage infrastructure.

“Kenya is a water scarce country with per capita water availability of 647m3, which is well below the global benchmark of 1000m3 per capita, indicating chronic water scarcity,” read the policy.

The government is also targeting to increase forest cover to 10 percent of total land area, rehabilitate degraded lands including rangelands and increase the resilience of the wildlife and tourism sectors.

The government will also focus is on the manufacturing sector where it is seeking to improve energy and resource efficiency.

The plan will also seek to ensure that Kenya enhances the use renewable energy, which is resilient to climate change, in the supply of electricity.


US mulls closing its military bases in Kenya

By KEVIN J. KELLEY
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The US Defence Department is considering closing military outposts in Kenya and three other African countries while also halving the number of its special operation forces on the continent, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

But the Times account does not specify which facilities in Kenya could be affected by the proposed move, which must be approved by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis before it takes effect.

The US is known to have maintained a military presence at Manda Bay, sometimes referred to as Camp Simba, for several years now. US troops have also been reported to operate from an installation in Isiolo.

US forces inside Kenya are believed to contribute to anti-insurgency missions in neighbouring Somalia.

SHIFT IN STRATEGY

The sizeable US military contingent in Somalia of about 500 personnel would remain intact under the plans being mulled by Defence Department officials, the Times said.

If the envisioned cutbacks in Africa are carried out, the Pentagon would be left with “a lasting, robust military presence in Somalia and Nigeria,” the newspaper reported.

The potential reductions of US troops in Africa reflect a planned shift in strategy, with the Defence Department focusing its resources more on perceived threats from China and Russia.

US SPECIAL FORCES

The plan to close facilities in Africa and to remove half of the 1,200 US special forces now on the continent, also results from a political outcry following the killing of four US soldiers by Islamist militants in Niger last year.

A fifth US service member was killed in Somalia earlier this year.

Most of the estimated 6,000 US military personnel assigned to roles in Africa would apparently not be affected by the possible withdrawals. There is also no suggestion of a significant downsizing of the US base in Djibouti.


D+ will now get you into teaching college

By OUMA WANZALA
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The qualifications for students joining teacher training colleges have been lowered, amid a decline in the number of students choosing the profession in the last two years.

The Kenya National Qualifications Authority (KNQA) said the entry requirements for diploma and certificate (P1) courses have been lowered.

Certificate courses will be phased out next year, leaving only diploma programmes for primary school trainee teachers.

“This is in line with the Kenya National Qualifications Framework, which has been widely discussed and adopted by stakeholders,” the authority’s director-general, Dr Juma Mukhwana, said in a statement.

TEACHER TRAINING

According to the new rules, students seeking to study for diploma in education will need a C plain or C- in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), down from the previous C+. Meanwhile, those seeking a certificate in education (popularly known as P1), will need a D+, down from a C plain.

“These changes will ensure the sustainability of teacher training in the country, which is under threat from reforms being undertaken in the technical vocational education training (TVET) sector,” Dr Mukhwana said.

He noted that students seeking direct entry to universities will still be required to have attained a mean grade of C+ in KCSE.

Last month, Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed raised concern over the low number of students applying to join teacher training colleges.

LACK OF INTEREST

“We have to address this issue, or else we will not get secondary and primary school teachers in future,” she said

Ms Mohamed regretted students’ lack of interest in the profession, yet the government was investing a lot of resources in the sector.

Ms Mohamed announced that students joining teacher training colleges this year to train as P1 teachers will be the last batch.

“We are phasing out P1 teachers. Those joining next year will not study for a certificate, but a diploma,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

Statistics from the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) indicate that there are 295,000 trained teachers who are yet to be absorbed by the government and private sector.


IEBC cannot account for Sh9.2bn expenditure

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) cannot account for up to Sh9.2 billion for various contracts it awarded for the supply of goods and services used during last year’s August 8 General Election and the October 26 repeat presidential poll.

The commission used direct procurement to secure goods and services totalling Sh9.2 billion between January 7, 2016, and October 17, 2017, but Auditor-General Edward Ouko returned an adverse opinion on the use of the funds and concludes in his report that the commission did not apply the funds lawfully and in an effective way.

A draft audit report of the commission for the 2016/17 financial year, which the Nation has seen, reveals that IEBC awarded the contract for the supply of 45,000 Kenya Integrated Elections Management System (Kiems) kits to Safran Identity Solutions (Safran Morpho) on March 31, 2017 at a contract sum of Sh4.2 billion.

TECHNICAL SUPPORT

The contract involved the supply, installation, configuration, testing and commissioning of the kits, software licenses and loyalties, training and technical support.

However, while the evaluation committee had recommended for the purchase of the kits at a cost of Sh3.8 billion, the contract was awarded at a cost of Sh4.2 billion, an excess payment of Sh396 million, which is contrary to Section 47 (1) of the Public Finance Management Regulations, 2015.

Further, the audit reveals that the Kiems kits, power banks, protective cases, and SD cards were procured for the General Election and the repeat presidential election but IEBC did not justify the rationale of incurring an additional cost of Sh856 million for the repeat poll.

The audit further shows 149,640.5 GB data bundle valued at Sh127 million were procured from Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom, but an analysis of actual SIM card’s data usage revealed that 605.3 GB valued at Sh515,269 were used resulting in unutilized, expired and wasted 149.035 GB data bundle.

UNLIMITED BUNDLES

Similarly, IEBC mismanaged 1,000 Thuraya Modems and Sim cards loaded with data. The first batch of 700 and 300 Thuraya satellite data modems and Sim cards with unlimited bundles were delivered and distributed to the constituencies before the General Election. However, only 339 modems and cards with data of only 4 GB were used.

“In this circumstances, indications are that the commission did not evaluate actual data required which would have been the basis for determination of actual cost,” the report states, noting that IEBC did not clarify why it was not necessary to negotiate for post payment arrangement that would have guaranteed payment for actual data used.

Another service that was procured through direct procurement was the BVR IBM server infrastructure maintenance and Kiems infrastructure security monitoring solution. The contract was awarded to IBM management at Sh452 million for a contract period ending June 2018.

NO INSTALLATIONS

The ICT department had recommended that the service be procured at Sh75 million.

In any case, a physical verification undertaken by the auditors on June 19, 2018, reveals that no installations have been done at both primary and secondary data centres and some of the deliverables have not been undertaken by the contractor.

Among the deliverables not undertaken include vulnerability and event management, cyber security operations centre and SOC automation, web application firewalls, anti-distributed denial of service solution, next generation firewalls, email security and licenses, network discovery and compliance solution, training on deployed security solutions and one year hardware warranty and technical support.

DISASTER RECOVERY

The commission was to build a new converged server for primary data centre and disaster recovery site to support its electoral technology requirements and other Commission IT operations. The data centres were to provide seamless access and high availability service to comply with the provision of the election laws.

The tender was evaluated and awarded to M/s Africa Neurotich Systems Ltd at a cost of Sh249 million.

However, while the company was paid the entire contract amount for the delivery of hardware, “a verification by the auditors shows that data centres were never utilized for the intend purposes. In this circumstances, the commission paid the vendor before testing and commissioning the equipment,” the auditor observes in the report.


Tax on pesticides will lead to high food prices

By KITAVI MUTUA
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By PIUS MAUNDU
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A 16 per cent tax on pesticides by the government, which came into effect last month, had seen food prices rise even before the one on petroleum products.

The tax, which will worsen an already bad situation in the agricultural sector, is contained in the Tax Laws (Amendment) Act 2018.

Stakeholders in the agricultural sector have warned that it will hurt farmers and consumers alike, since it will increase production costs, which will automatically translate to higher food prices.

In a joint statement, the Cereal Growers Association, the Agrochemical Association of Kenya, the Fresh Produce Exporters Association and the Kenya Flower Council have called for its abolition, saying it defeats all efforts to achieve food security, a key pillar of President Kenyatta’s “Big Four” agenda.

The players noted that pests and diseases contribute from 40 to 100 percent crop loss if pesticides are not used, and that the tax makes local produce less competitive.

FARM INPUTS

They pointed out that agrochemicals constitute up to 40 percent of farm inputs. 

“The introduction of 16 percent VAT on pest-control products will increase the cost of agricultural production for poor farmers and also lead to higher consumer prices for agricultural produce,” said Ms Evelyn Lusenaka, the CEO of the Agrochemical Association of Kenya.

Ms Lusenaka said it compounds the many challenges Kenyan farmers are facing, including prolonged drought, an armyworm invasion, heavy floods and an influx of cheap food imports.

Maize farmers who have been battling the army worm attack are likely to be big losers because of the new tax, having already chalked up huge expenses buying additional pesticides.

The cost of beef and vegetables, which are staple in many homes, will also go up, as will that of horticultural products, which require heavy use of agro chemicals to prevent pests and diseases.

TWO-PRONGED APPROACH

In a telephone interview, Ms Lusenaka said they have moved to court to stop the implementation of the tax.

“We’ve been forced to seek redress in court because after the president assented to the law, the earliest Parliament can review it is after six months, which is January next year,” she said, adding the matter was certified as urgent by Justice Chacha Mwita.

Meanwhile, farmers are planning a two-pronged approach to tackle the matter.

They are planning to collect one million signatures to petition President Kenyatta to abolish the punitive sections of the new tax laws if their efforts to lobby Parliament and the national Treasury fail.

NEGATIVE EFFECTS

Through their umbrella body, the Cereal Growers Association, they have reached out to the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture and the Cabinet secretaries for Agriculture and the national Treasury for talks to resolve the issue.

According to the association’s chairman, Mr Antony Kioko, they want Parliament to to reverse the negative effects of the earlier amendments, including increased dependence on food imports, food safety, and health concerns due to exposure to substandard pesticides.

“In our view, there is no clear benefit for introducing the tax because driving prices upwards will only reduce the VAT and income tax attributable to it,” Mr Kioko said, adding they are planning on lobbying MPs to amend the law.

PROJECTED TAX REVENUES

Mr Kioko said the stakeholders will collect signatures from farmers to petition the President if the lobbying efforts fail.

“We understand that MPs might not have appreciated the full consequences of this law when they passed it, but they have now seen how it is affecting millions of people,” Mr Kioko said.

He denying farmers a livelihood is pointless, adding that the projected tax revenues will not be achieved if the government further suppresses agriculture.


The curse and blessing of SGR cash

By LUCY MKANYIKA
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It has been four years since a number of Taita-Taveta residents received compensation for the standard gauge railway land but some have little to show for it.

The millions of shillings turned the residents’ fortunes in different directions. For Mr Ngavazi Muthungu of Birikani area, the SGR project came as a blessing.

He used the sh1.4 million he received from the government to buy a piece of land where he put up a commercial building.

Part of the monthly rent helped transform his retail shop into a wholesale business.

“The compensation for the plot improved my life. My income has gone up and my family lives in relative comfort,” he told the Nation.

COMPENSATION

However, Mr Muthungu did not receive all the amount promised.

He was told that the piece of land he had bought before the project was launched belonged to Kishamba B group ranch.

The ranch owners sent a petition to the National Land Commission and Kenya Railways demanding a 30 percent share of the compensation.

“I did not buy the land from the ranch so I am entitled to all the amount. It is my land,” the businessman said.

Mr Muthungu and others have visited State agencies for help to no avail. A few kilometres from his shop is an incomplete double-storey building.

SPENDING SPREE

Its owner, Hamisi Mwasema, says he could not finish its construction because government officials undervalued his two and a half acre piece.

Mr Mwasema says he had several trees and a semi-permanent house on his land “but my family only received Sh13 million”.

Neighbours and relatives say when Mr Mwasema got the money, he went on a spending spree and blew most of it on alcohol.

He bought a new saloon and a Mitsubishi Fuso lorry. He later constructed a house for his family.

Area resident interviewed said the car is grounded after being involved in an road accident recently.

He may not have the money to repair the car or complete the other building, which was meant for business.

Mr Mwasema boasts of having constructed a house for himself and his mother using the SGR cash.

“My family is happy and I now have a permanent house. The lorry helps me make some money that I use to take care of the family,” he said.

Mr Mwasema insists that the government needs to top up the compensation “because what I received in 2014 was very little”.

“We gave our quotations but the compensation we got was not enough,” he said.

Mr Samuel Mwaengwa, another beneficiary, said Kenyans need to be educated on what to do with colossal amounts they get as compensation for a government project.

BUILD RENTAL HOUSES

Mr Mwaengwa received Sh2.9 million, part of which was misused on entertainment.

“When people knew I had money, they followed me everywhere and I bought them whatever they requested,” he said.

“To date, I cannot account for some Sh500,000.”

Family members came to the rescue of the mechanic when they advised him to build rental houses. Mr Mwaengwa gets more than Sh30,000 in monthly rent.

He also has a motorcycle spare parts shop.


We must defend our nation at all costs

By MICHAEL MUGWANG’A
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Two Iranian men —Ahmad Abolfathi Mohammad and Sayed Mansour Mousavi — were arrested in Kenya five years ago on suspicion that they were in the country to direct a major terrorism plot.

They were arraigned before Magistrate Kiarie Waweru Kiarie and subsequently sentenced to life in prison and additional sentences of 15 and 10 years in jail for lesser charges. The evidence showed they were caught in possession of RDX explosives capable of flattening a tall building.

Kenyan anti-terror officials said the two are members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (Qods Force), an elite and secretive unit which executes covert foreign missions. The court heard that the suspects were planning attacks on Israeli, American, British or Saudi Arabian interests in Kenya.

The Qods Force is the terrorist arm of the IRGC. Its officers operate covertly to spread Iran’s negative influences far and wide and they have been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks and attempts globally. Security agencies say their activities are a huge threat to Kenya.

CRYING FOR MERCY

Had Mohammad and Mousavi carried out their plot successfully, a lot of Kenyan blood would have been spilt in traumatising ways and one can only estimate how many lives would have been lost or adversely altered forever.

The magistrate captured it in his judgment: “I shudder to imagine the amount of life and property that would have been forever destroyed.

“Even as I hear the accused persons mitigating and crying for mercy, there is yet a louder cry by the blood of the previous victims of terrorist attacks — the orphan, the widow and widower — due to such heinous attacks.

“All are crying for justice.” Indeed, all are crying for justice.

BORNE THE BRUNT

The duo’s appeal against the sentences awaits the final verdict by the Supreme Court.

Had the two Iranians succeeded in their horrendous plot on Kenyan soil, though against foreign targets, it is Kenya that would have borne the brunt, suffered the loss of lives, bandaged the wounds and carried the scars of the strike more than any other nation.

To put things in perspective, the terrorist attack on the American embassy in Nairobi on August 7, 1998 killed 213 people. Of these casualties, 201 were Kenyans.

And there were thousands of others, estimated at 5,000, who were badly injured in the attack, again most of them ordinary Kenyans going about their business in the otherwise peaceful streets of the capital city that fateful morning. They still carry physical and psychological scars from that attack.

LOSING LOVED ONES

Many families across the country, besides suffering the trauma of either losing a loved one or having to contend with their loss of limbs, bear the burden of caring for the victims and hitherto dependants of the deceased.

The infrastructural and economic damage to Kenya was enormous.

It counted not to Osama bin Laden and his misguided disciples who died in the attack which nation he was fighting. That moved Bin Laden — a figure hitherto unknown in Kenya — to number one public enemy in Kenya.

Had a Kenyan police officer or soldier tracked down Bin Laden or any of his evil men, what would we have said if, with a clear shot on the enemy, the security agent decided not to take it, ostensibly because it was an “American war”?

With all the atrocity visited on Kenya, would we ever have forgiven such a security agent? My simple view is No, we wouldn’t.

Even today, Kenya is a member of the family of nations. In many ways, nations are interdependent. Terrorism, for starters, can never be viewed in isolation. It is always part of a bigger puzzle.

If Kenya gave in to suggestions that we are a pawn in the war on terror who can stand aside so that the real actors can slug it out, we shall have surrendered our birthright to some of the most insidious, if atrocious, actors on the face of the earth.

United States president John F. Kennedy said: “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it.”

JFK’s hour of maximum danger is now. Kenyans must be eternally vigilant to defend the nation. All actors and citizens must act in concert to ensure that the types of the Iranian convicts face the full force of the law without an iota of fear or favour.

Mr Mugwang’a, a communications consultant, is a former crime and security reporter. [email protected] @mykeysoul


Let’s drop the antiquated ‘our people’ in anti-corruption war

By MACHARIA GAITHO
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Kenya is at war. The enemy against whom we must unite as one to stand any chance of survival is not some hostile state breaching our borders. Neither is it some crazed terrorists drawing us into some alien cause.

We face a much more insidious, much more dangerous foe. It is an enemy that resides deep within us, a malevolent cancer that courses through our veins and takes over our blood, flesh and bones. And eventually owns our hearts and our minds.

That enemy within is called corruption. Success in the war against corruption will depend on a united effort, all Kenyans pulling together in a concerted effort against a malignant foe that we must defeat or perish.

It is not a war for the faint-hearted or traitorous souls of mixed loyalties. Neither is it for those conflicted and unsure and, hence, likely to be derailed into diversionary causes around personalities, tribe and partisan politics.

ABORTED STARTS

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s war against corruption, revived after years of aborted starts, has drawn the wide public support it needs but, for every two steps forward, it has been one backwards.

How so? Many see it through blinkered lenses. We cheer when those nabbed are ‘strangers’ in our sad ethnopolitical formations but cry foul when those we presume share our tongue and/or political inclination are. This becomes clear from how different formations have reacted to high-profile arrests.

Almost from the word go, supporters of Deputy President William Ruto went into that antediluvian ‘our people are being finished’ mode. They incited redundant, and very dangerous, ethnic undertones and introduced base politics that split their own ‘ruling’ Jubilee party down the middle.

GOVERNMENT AGENDA

Some characters on the public payroll to support, advance and implement the government agenda started sabotaging the campaign.

They resorted to base propaganda targeting those driving the campaign and sought to muddy the waters by accusing everyone else of also being corrupt.

But it’s not only the Jubilee mobs who displayed such tendencies. Last week, we saw a battalion of opposition politicians, civil society and human rights activists from the legal fraternity clog a courtroom on record representing Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu.

SHOW OF SOLIDARITY

The show of solidarity when the DCJ was arraigned on corruption charges was, indeed, impressive — one hardly seen since the heady days when brave activists dared confront the despotic one-party Kanu regime.

The undoubted political message also sent disturbing signals. Would the group have turned out in equal numbers if, rather than Justice Mwilu, it was, for instance, her Supreme Court colleague Justice Njoki Ndung’u in the dock? Was this show about protecting the Judiciary from incessant efforts by the Jubilee regime to undermine, punish and ultimately control an independent arm of government or siding with a judicial officer of similar persuasion?

The latter is the message sent out, which serves only to undermine Justice Mwilu’s standing.

CAUSE FOR ALARM

There is cause for justifiable alarm that the unprecedented arrest and prosecution of a Supreme Court judge on corruption charges represents activation of President Kenyatta’s outrageous threat to ‘revisit’ the matter following the historic nullification of his presidential election victory last year, forcing a repeat poll.

The intemperate threats against the Supreme Court represented an alarming low in relations between the Executive and Judiciary.

Instead of blaming his incompetent and arrogant counsel, who mistakenly assumed State power must triumph, the President turned his ire on the judges.

It is, therefore, natural that the action against Justice Mwilu, even if based on real solid detective work, is seen against the ‘we shall revisit’ background.

That natural defence, however, would best be offered in a sober strategy that does not undermine itself by inadvertently making a connection between the judge and the consortium that fought the election petition whose outcome left President Kenyatta flailing wildly.

SUPPORT CORRUPTION WAR

There was a period in our recent history when safety in numbers was essential in confronting a dictatorial regime but that era is long past.

No one, and especially those who say they support the corruption war, should excite political and ethnic counter-attacks when any of their favourites is netted.

Neither should they resort to shooting the messenger, as in the unwarranted attacks we are seeing against newspapers that break news of impending arrests.

They should actually hail the media for taking the frontline in the graft war.

Of course, all media getting tips must go the extra mile to guard against being used, to ensure that they are getting and using that information in the public interest, not as pawns in some political wars.


Burgeoning population calls for return to family planning path

By KENNEDY CHESOLI
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Kenya’s post-Independence economic experience has been mostly disappointing. The economy has grown sluggishly. Real income rose at a slow $11.7 (Sh1,170) a year as the economy stagnated or contracted in the past eight years with consecutive growth, of more than two years, only in 2002-2006.

The economy has manifested wild year-to-year swings — like the 4.7 per cent decline in 1970 followed by a 22.2 per cent growth!

But like marching soldiers our population has ballooned. It has skyrocketed from 8.9 million in 1963 to 50 million — a factor of 5.5 — while incomes only rose by a factor of 2.0.

The United Nations projects that in 30 years there would be 100 million of us and Kenya will be the 20th most-populous country.

UNEMPLOYMENT

Millions of Kenyans cannot find gainful employment as thousands of youth constantly look for inexistent remunerative work in a largely informal economy where not only can’t job creation keep pace with population growth but there is no economic diversification.

Finite resources, such as arable land and clean water, are rapidly diminishing. The capacity of institutions to provide basic social services is overstretched.

It is imperative that we proactively pursue a two-pronged integrated strategy of guided economic growth and population management: A development policy that would leverage the burgeoning working-age population for higher productivity and examine our choices for family sizes.

An alternative narrative that sees potential in our growing population exists, nonetheless.

DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND

In recent months, African leaders and stakeholders, including the African Union, have been trumpeting the continent’s imminent economic take-off that is predicated on the coming demographic dividend.

According to them, Africa is experiencing a demographic transition occasioned by a simultaneous decline in mortality and fertility rates.

While the share of available labour force, or the working-age population, for other regions is in decline, Africa will experience a steady rise for several decades.

By one account, this share will rise from 54 per cent in 2010 to 64 per cent in 2090 or 12.6 per cent in 2010 to more than 41 per cent by 2100.

STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY

They see this as a strategic, 30-year opportunity for Africa to finally achieve poverty reduction, economic growth and sustainable development — like South Asia. Economic theory suggests that growth in working-age population often leads to a reduction in dependency ratios and increase in output.

Countries can also realise a steady rise in income, savings and investment.

The World Bank estimates that this demographic dividend could account for as much as 15 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) growth and move 60 million people out of poverty.

But to harness this, upfront investment in healthcare, education and skills development is needed. Right policy measures and incentives must be provided to support labour-intensive growth.

HIGH ECONOMIC GROWTH

Rather than simply pursuing high economic growth, proper focus should be on high and sustainable growth and improvements in the quality of government institutions and human capital accumulation through technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Ongoing development initiatives such as the ‘Big Four’ agenda and the standard gauge railway (SGR) must boost our productivity and further enhance our competitive edge. This is the first strategy.

Kenya is widely listed among the first African countries to recognise the effects of rapid population growth on social and economic development.

When total fertility rate was high and rising, topping the world ranks in 1966 with 8.13 births per woman, it increased availability of family planning services in hospitals and health centres with its first clinic the Family Planning Association of Kenya.

FAMILY PLANNING

Soon after ascending to power, President Daniel arap Moi prioritised family planning, becoming a leading advocate through his “panga uzazi” (plan your family) clarion call.

The Washington Post of March 8, 1986 reported that the slowing down population growth was, then, Kenya’s most crucial challenge. It further said that Moi had set a target of 4.7 children per family by 2000.

In Moi’s 24-year rule, fertility rates dropped by 34 per cent. Kenyan women were having just five children and the annual population growth slowed from 3.8 per cent to 2.7 per cent. And there has been little change 15 years since he left. Last year, the population increased by 2.5 per cent or 1,240,000 new babies a year — an increase.

Clearly, it is imperative to recognise our inherent limitations to adequately support further population growth and return to championing smaller families.

Mr Chesoli is a New York-based development economist and global policy expert. [email protected]


MPs’ fuel action social win, economic failure

By JOHN MUTHURI
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Last week, Parliament unanimously postponed the implementation of the 16 per cent value added tax (VAT) on fuel levy for two years — if the Finance (Amendment) Bill 2018 sponsored by the minority whip is assented to.

Such a move in 2013 resulted in a three-year grace period.

However, we are positioning the implementation of a law and, in my opinion, gearing towards an ugly period.

The levy was introduced by the VAT Act 2013 in an effort to raise revenue and as a condition by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). If implemented, the government could raise an additional Sh71 billion per year.

KEEP ECONOMIES AFLOAT
At a time when countries are battling to keep their economies afloat and currencies strong, it is unimaginable that we are approving politically correct measures at the expense of the economic realities.

Kenya could head the Argentina way: The country is begging the IMF to release a $50 billion loan amid a worsening economic crisis.

Or its South American neighbour Venezuela, which, despite producing oil, faces its worst economic crisis and citizens are fleeing to Brazil.

The IMF has learnt from its policy mistakes in Argentina and cautioned Kenya against continuous postponement of the levy.

The Bretton Woods institution made a huge mistake of overrating Argentina’s economy, which led to the country over-borrowing.

ECONOMIC CHANGES
The similarity between Argentina and Kenya is their failure to adhere to economic changes promised to the IMF. Argentina failed to enact the economic reforms to curb public spending and borrowing; Kenya id dilly-dallying on the fuel levy. The Argentine peso has depreciated by 40 per cent to exchange at 34.2 per dollar.

Energy taxation is a common phenomenon. It should, therefore, not be treated as an unprecedented calamity.

In its defence, Parliament cited a harsh economic period in Kenya. But in this same period, we have set a record of losing billions of shillings to corruption!

It is a time when we have borrowed beyond the recommended IMF standard of 50 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). And we have the ‘Big Four’ agenda, which is financially heavy. But it is the same period that our economy has experienced a 1.9 economic growth.

FUEL PRICES

I believe the time is ripe to implement the levy!

It is true that the increased fuel prices will affect Kenyans. However, failure to implement the VAT will lead to inflation and devaluation of the shilling.

Kenya has just completed its precautionary loan that it got from the IMF in 2016 and negotiations are on for a new one — which we need to insure our economy amid our rampant borrowing and avoid further debt. This is a stage that we cannot avoid in the path to our economic development.

We can choose to be dishonest with ourselves and view the situation as coercion by the IMF or to be candid and wise and treat it with utmost honesty and implement the levy.