Full Story below - Published in The STAR Newspaper of Monday 7/7/2014
Saba Saba began as a movement for constitutional reform back in 1990. It heralded the maturing of political expression in the public domain and ushered in the next generation of leaders in Kenya’s history. While the Saba-Saba debate has arrested the attention of the nation, we must not trivialize our response to the major concerns of law, employment and wealth creation the debate raises. This article explains how Kenyans can ensure that the country takes a progressive non-violent path through the Saba-Saba debate drawing insights from economic principles, current global leadership thinking and historical wisdom to achieve national prosperity.Background
In 2010, a majority public vote at a national referendum gave Kenya a new constitution. The first government, elected under the new constitution in 2013, has the duty to deal with all the teething problems of power in the new order. The two major challenges of this new order are 1) governance and 2) the distribution of wealth. While devolution has brought administration closer to the people, it has not brought about expected prosperity. Recent terror attacks on innocent citizens have compounded public insecurity, frustration and unhappiness. In this context, the people are looking for salvation and security from anyone who promises peace and prosperity.
On the other hand the national vision promises, “A globally competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life by 2030”. But, what is the meaning of “prosperous” and do Kenyans feel they are moving to a higher quality of life? As we respond to the core and contextual issues of the debates, we need to examine how prosperity, politics and power contribute to the current stalemate.
Prosperity is often thought to be the possession of material wealth. However, recent thinking suggests that there is more to prosperity than mere property. The UN Human Development Index includes the elements such as; security, political and economic freedoms - even happiness to measure prosperity. When these soft factors are included, nations that rank high in GDP (financial wealth) like USA and China drop in world ranking falling behind nations like Norway and Australia. For a nation to enjoy prosperity that prosperity must be available to all citizens and provide opportunity for everyone to escape poverty. However, when the government borrows billions of dollars to build huge projects, this translates into higher taxes on public income. When this happens, national prosperity comes into direct conflict with personal prosperity and makes people unhappy.
Effective politics requires leaders sensitive to public needs and concerns. Nonetheless, political leaders sometimes lack the wisdom to design or implement policy that generates national prosperity. The tragedy of bad politics is that it creates bad laws that create bad economics that open doors to corruption. Insincere leaders use politics to pass laws that don not result in the public good. For example, it would be interesting to find out how many Kenyans are “happy” with the bill that allows men to marry countless women. But even “good” policy can have the same effect as bad laws. For example, high tariffs on imported goods such as petroleum in the interest of protecting the local market from low quality items, allows wealthy companies to organize cartels to regulate the trade in those goods. The object of politics should not be good law, but prudent law.
Power is the control of resources, the capacity to enforce law, the guarantor of justice and the patron of privilege. The moment a government turns that force against its citizens it causes anxiety, insecurity and loses legitimacy. Nevertheless, many people seek power to enjoy positions of privilege and exercise the privilege of power. In Kenya’s case, the public may have to bear with the challenges of devolution and jostling for power for some time to come, but must be very keen to differentiate between power hungry wolves and true shepherds of the flock.
Principles of National Prosperity
National prosperity depends on the state of the “politico-socio-economic-stability”. Instability can cause a revolution. The Saba-Saba debate has raised ethnic tensions, but the gap between national and personal prosperity does require urgent attention. So how does a nation with 40% unemployment, 42 million people, 44 ethnic tribes and 47 counties achieve prosperity? The answer requires Solomonic wisdom. Fortunately, the prosperity of Solomon’s kingdom is well documented. It began with a prayer for wisdom.
The king engaged 1) Wisdom; insight into matters of leadership, justice and statecraft. 2) Divine favor; The King entreated Gods favor. 3) Peace; War of any sort is a drain on a nation’s wealth. The PEV of 2008 is merely a case in point. Violence kills prosperity by diverting resources away from economic activity. 4) Free enterprise; There are in fact three types of enterprise. Productive enterprise is the use of ones God given gifts to create value for others in line with Adam Smith’s model. For this process to yield maximum results, it must be “free” of manipulation. Unfortunately, Kenya’s economic process is flooded with middlemen. Destructive production is theft! Theft deprives one person of their wealth and puts it in the possession of another without adding any value to the economy. War, political bickering and ethnic violence are all forms of destructive production. Unproductive enterprise is the use of policy to muzzle enterprise in order to protect markets to favor privileged interest groups. Kenyan parliamentarians recently changed the law to increase their own salaries. I am not sure this inspired citizens to pay income tax. 5) Employment; While 40% unemployment is unacceptably high, those with jobs contribute very little wealth to national prosperity. This is the unfortunate tragedy of the Kenyan employee who is unable to create any personal wealth after a lifetime of work. However, unemployment also contributes large populations of idle human capital to roam cities.
In conclusion, we recommend to following economic solutions to the debate;
1. Select Presidents, Senators, MPs and MCAs and leaders who can entreat the favor of God to bless our nation with wealth.
2. Employ wise men and women; competent experts and specialists in their own fields to manage national resources.
3. Unleash the entrepreneur. USA has 6 enterprises for every 100 people, Kenya has only 3 registered enterprises for every 1000 people! Encourage and protect the entrepreneur. Do not burden them with high taxes or administrative legislation that discourages them to take risks and exercise their creative gifting.
4. Make good laws that ensure prompt justice. Remove bad laws that create fear, insecurity and unhappiness. Weed out poor legislators and teach lawmakers to enact policy that counters corrupt and immoral practices. Repeal laws that protect monopolies, middlemen and rent seekers.
5. Make government bureaucracy open, transparent, user friendly and available to serve the public without prejudice and ensure that public works do not appear to serve private or sectarian interests.
6. Promote peaceful coexistence in families, among neighbors, ethnic groups and pursue peace with all neighboring countries.
7. Teach employees how to create wealth and address the mismatch between educated (schooled) graduates and unemployment in the economy to engage idle human capital in industry
In addition, from all our leaders we will require the added measure of visionary leadership, personal maturity and patriotism.God Bless Kenya