Posts Tagged Kenyan Economy

A country of free men is not free if they are owned by somebody else.

“Debt is the fatal disease of republics, the first thing and the mightiest to undermine governments and corrupt the people”
Wendell Phillips 

Numbers, huge sums of money, mind boggling debt, billions in expenditure, very few people like these or can process articles about such quickly while dealing with the other hassles and vagaries of daily life in a third world republic.

Lately I have felt that I have been inundated with news to do with just such numbers. Whenever I look at headlines all I see are staggering figures bandied about like they were mere exercises in mathematics class, except they are not.

We are in trouble, we have let unbridled expenditure coupled with borrowing at the rate of a drunken sailor take hold of our lives.

Sample this:

Kenya’s gross domestic debt (government’s borrowing from the local markets) had in June this year hit the trillion-shilling mark up from 859 billion twelve months ago.

We already have an external debt burden of Sh800 billion, therefore the national debt comes to about Sh1.8 trillion, which is basically one half of our Sh3.6 trillion economy.

That is not all, we have during this August borrowed another 425 Billion Shillings from China, this means our external debt is now more than 1.25 trillion Shillings, there’s a ceiling on how much we can borrow externally and this ceiling is 1.2trillion which we have exceeded.

And lest we forget: “Debt is an ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slavedriver. ” 

While looking at these figures we have to remember that there’s no record of anyone having ever managed to wildly spend their way out of a slow economic growth or to borrow their way out of debt, certainly spending money we don’t have by borrowing more and more while our debt burden rises cannot be good economics.


Meanwhile I read today that in our country a Judicial Service Commissioner ‘earns’ Sh80,000 for every sitting, and that in the last year; the JSC held 247 meetings, meaning a commissioner who attended all 247 meetings took home Sh1.6 million every month in allowances, coming to a total of KES 19,760,000.00 per year. This then led to a situation in which in the 2012/2013 financial year, commissioners gobbled up Sh377 million in allowances for board meetings, conferences and seminars, foreign travel and subsistence, catering service and accommodation, gifts, food and drinks and legal fees.

The CJ had a house bought for him at 310 million, when the initial budget was 200 million.

Remember, while this was going on we couldn’t pay teachers, policemen, and health workers the pittance we offer for their crucial services.

The government also had time to throw in half a billion for offices for a retired president, as well spend another half a billion shillings building a home for him on his private land at Mweiga.

And then there was the plan to blow Sh2.5 billion on celebrations to mark 50 years of Kenya’s independence with: Sh690 million for events management and logistics, Sh286 million for conference and exhibition during the one week celebration, Sh300 million for publicity and communication, Sh365 million for entertainment and a handsome Sh320 million to go towards identifying Kenya’s most prominent personalities.

It also includes Sh50 million for erecting a bronze statue of retired President Mwai Kibaki

And we think MPigs are the worst of the lot?


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The class struggle in Kenya: since Obama Snr.’s death, what has changed really?

“Kenyatta said to Mr. Obama: “Because you cannot keep your mouth shut, you will not work again until you have no shoes on your feet,”

Often so much attention is focused on Barack Obama, the President of the United States, that little is ever said of his father, Barack Obama Snr. However, the late Obama Snr. himself was a very remarkable person, in his own right, albeit with a penchant for the finer things in life; chain smoking, white women and braggadocio. It is not intention however to dissect his life as a person, but rather to put back on the radar his thoughts on Kenya’s economy two years after independence and compare that to today. His musings are erudite, as one would expect of an Obama, and are presented here verbatim as an excerpt from a paper he wrote in 1965, and for which he was sacked and rendered a pariah, as a result of which he sadly died a broken man, given to alcohol and hopelessness.

The paper that led to his tribulations was in some sense a call for a Kenyan version of socialism as opposed to the wholesale form of cliche socialism that was being peddled in the name of African socialism. The crux of Obama Snr.’s argument was summarised in this statement that he wrote: “The question is how are we going to remove the disparities in our country, such as the concentration of economic power in Asian and European hands, while not destroying what has already been achieved and at the same time assimilating these groups to build one country,”

He further expounded: “One need not be a Kenyan to note that nearly all commercial enterprises from small shops in River road to big shops in Government Road, and industries in the industrial area were mostly owned by Asians and Europeans. One need not be a Kenyan to note that most hotels and entertainment places are owned by Asians and Europeans. One need not be a Kenyan to note that when one goes to a good restaurant, he mostly finds Asians and Europeans, nor has he to be a Kenyan to see that the majority of cars running in Kenya are run by Asians and Europeans. How then can we say that we are going to be indiscriminate in rectifying the imbalance? We have to give the African his place in his own country, and we have to give him his economic power if he is going to develop”

For this views he was summoned and summarily dismissed by the then President thus: “Kenyatta said to the Old Man that because he could not keep his mouth shut, he would not work again until he had no shoes on his feet,”

It is my belief the profound questions posed by the late Obama Snr are still relevant today and should give us a benchmark by which to put into perspective how far we have or have not come as a country in terms of economic integration and equitable spread of opportunity.

Does the generation of today, well read and informed, but a majority of whom are either underpaid, overworked, underemployed or unemployed, feel the dismissal of Obama’s train of thought (considering that he was then a senior government economist who had trained at Harvard no less) was justified? Have the degree holders actualized their dreams? Do they have access to ownership of any means of production?

PS. It is necessary to point out that Obama Snr. was not really an ingrained socialist/communist lackey, his views were contrary to the accepted African traditional socialism — the sort Tanzania had tried with ujamaa–, which stressed communal ownership of major means of production and sharing of fruits of collective labor, so expended in production, to the benefit of all. His views in the same paper advocate issuing of land title deeds and private ownership of land which is itself a crucial means of production.

Link to the full paper as written by Barack Obama Snr. here:

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