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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly - in the County

If your county is not already on the road to prosperity, you should be concerned because within the next few years every county in Kenya will come under global scrutiny. Judgment day for non-performing counties will be pretty severe while county residents themselves will be very unforgiving with promise defaulters.
While global institutions will be looking for success models to show of to the rest of the world, citizens will have to decide if the county governments have made them any richer or made them better off in any way. The judgment call for county administration and governors will be, “what prosperity have you brought to us?” The answer to that question will determine who goes home, who stays on and who comes in next. At the very least countians will want to record a specific reduction in poverty levels and improvement in essential services like hospitals and convenient access to public goods such as water and identity cards.
County administrations do not have much time to make these realities real. While county governments can make promises that they expect the executive to deliver, the challenge is that there is both a political and administrative component to this delivery that may not be well coordinated or even fully appreciated. Elected officials may fail to deliver because their administrative teams are ill equipped to deliver or vice versa. Counties that deliver services without conducting a baseline surveys will waste public funds.
County governments need to develop and implement policies that bring prosperity to citizens and not themselves. Administrations would also be wise to develop and implement strategic plans to transform the county, rather than raise funds through toll stations and parking tickets to pay staff. These basic assessments will help countians predict whether their county falls among the good, the bad or the ugly in the country.
Nevertheless, counties that will make the “good” grade will go further to develop available resources to the extent that countians benefit from industry and economic activity brought into existence that improves their way of life. By delivering public goods such as roads, abattoirs and clean markets, counties will create wealth by encouraging entrepreneurial activity within the countydom. Of course, this will require the empowerment of county administrations to deliver services not as a bureaucracy, but as an efficient corporate entity overseeing the transformation of the county from poverty to prosperity. County administrations that do not develop professional teams to deliver efficient services will not be able to transform their counties to any extent. Those that don’t deliver services can only hope to be classed as bad.
If your county has done the basics and settled down to the business of serving countians rather than impeaching each other,  rolling out a strategic plan and focusing on making good laws then there is hope to escape the bad and be classed as good. However, to excel each county will have to think bigger than itself and establish its value contribution to Kenya. In other words, in order to advance the country, county leaders will have to encourage their people to think like citizens and not countians. This may turn out to be a huge challenge for some counties.
For some “unexplainable” reason, our county boundaries closely mirror, ethnic concentrations. These ethnographic counties present us with a “country and county” loyalty paradox. Counties that are open to diversity protect the interests and the right of the minority to own property and participate in county activity. These counties welcome ethnic diversity. However, those counties that pass laws, implement policy and encourage practices that exclude minorities, visitors and investors will automatically fall among the ugly. Ingrown counties can hardly expect to experience growth through new ideas, innovation or enterprise.
The measure of ethnic community acceptance levels is quite visible at weddings and funerals. In closed cultures, these occasions are conducted exclusively in the local dialect despite the presence of friends, workmates as well as both local and international guests. Unfortunately, this practice is both rampant and embarrassing among communities that are insensitive to the participation of outsiders. Though such communities may not be accused of ethnic violence, they will have mastered the crime of “ethnic arrogance”. Victims are reminded by behavior, language and gesture that they are guests at the pleasure of the ethnic majority and not by right of citizenship. We will have to wait to see the county diversity scorecards to judge which is the best county to live and invest in and which county is least tolerant of other communities. Those that consider their county to be an ethnocentric zone will appear ugly in the eyes of the globe.

Allan Bukusi


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