Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Could This Move Exorcise The Corruption Demons?

It is a cancerous issue that is deeply embedded in various strata of Kenya’s social, economic and political systems. Since the pre-independence period until now, corruption has been thriving. All the post-independence governments have been affected by this societal vice albeit enacting and institutionalizing several anti-corruption measures.
Perhaps the pacified approach towards fighting graft adopted by the previous governments is what has slowed down and some time even stagnated the rate of economic growth and development. It is common sense that a sustained increase in the rate and level of economic growth and development is impossible and largely far-fetched if the avarice of corruption cannot be tackled effectively.
We have witnessed cases of grand corruption in the past regimes and even worrying are the allegations of mega corruption courtesy of the current Jubilee administration. Late last year amid claims by the Opposition stalwarts and governance experts that the current administration isn’t doing enough to exterminate this resource-draining event of corruption, the government honchos comprising the Executive and Legislative members allied to the Jubilee administration came out guns blazing issuing statements left, right and centre at press conferences on how a vicious fight against graft was being waged.
After all these political theatrics and ‘politricks’ on a serious issue of both national and international concern, President Uhuru Kenyatta held a press conference at State House, Nairobi whereby he read out the riot act on how corrupt individuals were going to face the full force of the law. In fact, prior to the press conference, he met with various high profile and ranking officials from the private sector and government where deliberations were made on how both entities would fight graft. Most importantly, a special committee drawing membership from the government and private sector was established and given a time-frame within which they would give recommendations on how the fight against corruption would be steered.
At the same press conference, the president requested the Judiciary through the Chief Justice to fast-track cases that involve corruption. In addition, the Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga promised to do so on the basis of establishing a special division of the High Court that would check on corruption cases so as to weed out the delaying of such.
And here we are, this week the Chief Justice announced the names of the magistrates who will constitute the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division of the High Court. As a matter of fact, the establishment of this particular special division of the High Court follows a gazette notice issued on the 11th of December 2015. Its sole purpose is to reduce the length of time that is used in determining cases that involve corruption.
Following the remarks given by the Director of Public Prosecutions, it takes an average of five years to conclude cases that involve graft. But do you think the establishment of this particular division of the High Court is gonna shorten this period of time?
In my opinion, I believe that this wouldn’t do so much in prosecuting the famous ‘big fish’ who in Kenya’s context seem to be only proverbial. There is a valid reason as to why I think so. If the political leadership is not strongly committed in the fight against corruption then all these efforts won’t materialize or rather come into fruition. In this case, the political leadership comprises of the Executive and Parliament.
If the political will to tackle corruption is weak then how can we root out this societal evil that has rocked our country for decades? We need to understand that initiatives to tackle graft date way back to the pre-independence period. For instance, in 1956 the Prevention of Corruption Act of Chapter 65 of the Laws of Kenya was promulgated to check on corruption.
This particular act was then amended in 1991 to enact more stiffer penalties against those engaged in corruption. Two years later in 1993, an anti-corruption squad was set up within the police force to deal with issues and cases of graft. Then came 1997 whereby the Prevention of Corruption Act was amended to pave way for the establishment of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority(KACA). KACA’s life span was only three years after the High Court declared the agency as unconstitutional because the prosecution powers were to be exercised by the Attorney General and not KACA.
Because there was no state agency to check on the levels of corruption, the Anti-Corruption Police Unit was formed. Then came 2003 when the NARC government ascended to power. Since there was change of guard and government, the radiating optimism that swept the country into euphoria shared between the led and the political leadership generated a consensus that corruption was hindering the economic progress of Kenya. This culminated in the enactment of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act of 2003 that led to the institutionalization of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission(KACC). This particular Act gave room for the appointment of special magistrates to preside over cases that deal with corruption. KACC disappeared and in came the lame Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
If all these years we have had initiatives to fight corruption, what makes us to have the thoughts and imaginations that this vice can be stumped out? To me the solution is very simple. The moment we are going to witness a strong-willed political leadership is when we shall forget this corruption thing. Mark you if the past anti-corruption initiatives were coupled with effective political will then we could be almost a clean state.
Therefore, setting up the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Division of the High Court will be business as usual unless the political leadership will lead an onslaught against this vice. We need Executive orders and laws enacted by the Legislature that would decimate corruption. A top-down approach would be effective compared to a bottom-up approach in eradicating graft because it is the leadership that sets the tone and determines the drum-beats and the tunes that the citizenry is supposed to dance to.
As I conclude, let me revisit the findings about the corruption index released by Transparency International. Out of 168 countries we ranked at number 139. So disgusting but not surprising. Rwanda is at position 44. Then, consider that the recent scandals at the National Youth Service and the Eurobond allegations were not factored in. A point to ponder. Our country’s prosperity is in jeopardy unless the political leadership wakes from the slumber.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Blog4Dev #OpportunitiesForYouth #CreatingABrighterFuture

To begin with, one of the ways through which I would create a brighter future for the youth in Kenya would be through fighting the hegemonic ideal of negative ethnicity. Negative ethnicity has for many years, since Kenya attained independence, been a bottleneck in the realization of a brighter future by the young people. It is through the formation of anti-tribalism initiatives in the country that I’ll be able to help the Kenyan youths to get access to socio-economic opportunities albeit indirectly.
 The formation of the anti-tribalism initiatives through the social media and physically at the grassroots level nationwide would go a long way in promoting and propagating tolerance by championing the spirit of unity in diversity. The tolerance so attained would help to strongly and highly enhance national cohesion in order to form a solid nation of Kenyans that recognizes and cherishes the ethnic differences in a positive way. It is through tolerance and cohesion that a young Kenyan from one ethnic group would be able to work, invest and live in a different region that is occupied by a different ethnic community. It is also through tolerance and cohesion that many youths would be able to access job opportunities in government and in non-governmental agencies in an equal or nearly-equal manner hence a drastic reduction in the marginalization of the Kenyan youth.
Secondly, another sound and effective way to boost opportunities for the young people would be through the pooling of financial resources. I would advocate and enable many of the disgruntled, unemployed youth to form savings and investment groups. Whichever small amounts that the youth would have genuinely acquired will be saved in savings accounts in convenient financial institutions encompassing the mainstream banks and the micro-finance institutions. Through this, they’ll be able to get access to loans that can be used to establish several investments and/or income generating activities hence creating employment opportunities.
 As a matter of fact, such savings and investment groups would enable easier access to cheaper loans such as the Uwezo Fund and the Youth Enterprise Fund provided by the Government of Kenya under the aegis of the Ministry of Youth, Gender and Sports.  Furthermore, with the current government policy of allocating 30% of tenders to the youth, such investment groups would come in handy to facilitate this.
Another way of increasing opportunities for the youth would be through creation of a platform where the young people from all corners and walks of life will enlist the various talents that they possess. My vision is to establish an online platform that would have the primary mandate of listing young individuals and their respective talents. This will provide an opportunity for the youth to be in the lime-light so that well-wishers, the government and the non-governmental organizations can tap such talents. Most importantly, through the platform, these young people will get opportunities to earn income as a result of  commercialization of their talents.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Through Lord Acton’s Eyes

Time and again, we’ve heard and even quoted on how power corrupts and how absolute power corrupts absolutely. Those are the words of John Emerich Dalberg-Acton, commonly known as Lord Acton.
Recently, as I was having a fist-on-the-chin time, I came to a conclusion that it is the desire of the human nature to be subjectively corruptible to power; a conclusion that is however founded and premised on pure relativism and not opaque absolutism.

Power is sweet. Who doesn’t want to be associated with power? Like an ogre, it bays for the human blood and because our faculties are structured along the metric of seeking comfort from power, we give in to its trappings.

One of the ways through which somebody’s character can be revealed is when the individual has no power and when the same individual acquires power.

When an individual’s proximity to power is peripheral he/she tends to think in a clear manner, devoid of any uncorruptedness (sic) in his/her thought process. But once at the nerve centre of power, the thought process suffers from an unrivalled and unparalleled form of delusion and an unmatched form of illusion.

It’s the latter circumstance that generates narcissistic tendencies and characteristics for the incumbent. For some of the followers, this situation that’s aforementioned creates a perfect brooding and breeding ground for the act and art of sycophancy which generates an army of hireling ruffians and henchmen.

In the world today, we have people who are direly obsessed with the acquisition of power. It’s usually quite unfortunate that individuals whose rationality is subjugated and superimposed with the trappings of power, end up with warped minds that are devoid of par-excellence type and way of thinking and reasoning.

For a moment, let’s try to reflect on our various societies and ponder about this particular matter. I am sure you can figure out one, two, three or so individuals who can clearly be used as specimen in establishing the reality of this phenomenon; of/on how power corrupts not just the mind but also the soul.

The backslappers/sycophants engendered by the fabrications of power, further degenerate into simpletons and automatons that grace the horizon and skyline of humanity. In profound polities, these are individuals who have the ability and capability of sending the entire state to the dogs due to the nature of their thinking that is wholly atavistic and purely incongruent.

Within my intellectual framework and disposition, I strongly categorize such individuals as humans whose cognitive abilities are impotent. The lack of the independence of the mind is the greatest threat to the existence of humanity.

Across the world, all forms of wicked and intransigent political leadership are as a result of personalities being brainwashed and obsessed with power; an act whose consequence has led to the occurrence of atrocities in the history of humanity.

For instance, the World War One and World War Two happenstances can be traced to the tendencies of the different nations that participated in fighting and ultimately defeat their enemies so as to emerge as the most powerful nations on Earth. The point is that these nations were manned by individuals obsessed with power.
Moreover, it’s because of power that coup d’├ętats and revolutions have taken place. It’s also because of power that revolutionaries hardly exit the dais of power. Let me cite some examples so as to give credibility to my exegesis: in Cuba, the charismatic, communist leader and revolutionary Fidel Castro seized power through a coup and never retired, only to give the presidency to his brother Raul Castro after he was overwhelmed with sickness. This was a path that set a precedence for others like Colonel Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Paul Kagame and many others.
However, an interesting fact is that some of the revolutionaries have been hounded out of office because of the percolation of power to the masses. An example of this is the famous Arab Spring that emerged in Tunisia and spread to other Arabic states such as Egypt, Libya and Syria. In Syria however, the toppling of the incumbent, President Anwar Sadat never materialized. The Spring also penetrated into the polity of Algeria but the power holders managed to emasculate and eventually obliterated it. Another good example is the civilian coup by the Burkinabe that ended the reign of Blaise Compaore.

Similarly, in the process of my intellectual sojourn I have noted that the staunch oligarchs and demagogues of communism like Josef Stalin of the former Union Of Soviet Socialist Republic and Chairman Mao Tse Tung (Mao Ze Dong) of China, are good examples of how power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It’s because of their obsession and fascination with power that so many millions of lives were lost. This silly obsession to create a personality cult by the two of course paid out leading to the transfusion of dogmatic ideals to the people. But the obsession and fascination of power is anchored on the paranoid repressiveness that is a malfeasance in the personality schemata of such individuals.

To them humility is for the “weak”. I really admire Pope Francis as I can single him out as an individual who despite wielding a lot of power, has emerged as a quintessential representation of humility; a virtue that has eluded most political leaders. I salute all the humble leaders in the world and strongly abhor those entrenched in narcissism. But because we have different traits, then having such individuals in the society is a reality that we have to embrace but strongly preach against and possibly root it out. My advice to leaders especially the young ones who have the ambition of restoring political order is to stick to one of the thirteen rules of leadership offered by General Colin Powell: Avoid having your ego so close to your position so that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Kenya’s 2016 Macroeconomic Preview

The ushering in of a New Year has traditionally been regarded as a period that should be characterized with certain changes; changes that are positive. With pristine hindsight, 2015 was a year that our economy as a country performed averagely. The economy faced several challenges but also the positives are noted to have taken place.

The performance of any economy, a political economy for that matter, is pegged largely on the political leadership of a country. Looking back in the last electioneering period 2012-2013, the current administration promised that it would do all it can to make sure that the economic growth rate would be in double-digits. I am still waiting like an anxious bridegroom to see this happen and with my intellect and instincts this can never happen this year through to 2017.

One of the major reasons that this won’t happen any time soon is simply some common sense economics. If for the last three years the economic growth has been oscillating around the 5% mark then catapulting a 10% plus growth rate will be an illusion. 

So, what are the expectations of the general state of the economy in 2016? Firstly, the total and overall rate of economic growth rate will be around 4.5 to 5.3% due to an expected increase in political temperatures and activities as we edge closer to 2017. The slackened economic growth would be due to the pre-cautious approach that would be taken by the investors.

Secondly, the interest rates are expected to go up because of an increase in domestic borrowing by the central government. One of the major objectives of the Eurobond was to ease the rate of government borrowing in the domestic market so as to reduce the cases of crowding-out by the private sector. But because of the Executive’s affirmation and confirmation that the finances accrued from the sovereign bond were wired down to the ministries, state departments and agencies then we should expect to witness more and more borrowing by the government.

In any case, the Treasury experienced a cash crunch at a time when the Eurobond proceeds had just streamed in and it was forced to borrow some funds. This really implies that in fact borrowing is expected to be on the increase primarily to finance the current ambitious budget of close to Kshs.2.2 trillion whose deficit is explicitly massive. What will chiefly push up the interest rates would be the willingness by the lenders to easily lend finances to the government. Note that when the government intends to borrow funds it does so irrespective of the interest rates that are offered by the lenders and so the latter would be much willing to loan funds to the government in anticipation of some handsome returns. 

Thirdly, the exchange rate is expected to be relatively the same and the current situation won’t fade any time sooner. At the moment, US $1 exchanges at Kshs.102. There is a reason as to why I am foreseeing the current exchange rate being the norm for the next couple of months or years. Looking way back in 2011 when the shilling’s value deteriorated to an all-time low of Kshs.107 against the US dollar, it eventually came down to a region of between Kshs.88-89 versus the dollar for over three months. The worry here is that the present exchange rate of Kshs.102 against US $1 has been in existence for over three months. The Kshs.102 versus the dollar has not been a temporary situation unlike the Kshs.107 against US $1 which occurred for very few days.

It is not 2011 alone that can be used to judge and make conclusions about the value of the Ksh against the US $  basing on the three-month period. In the first Mwai Kibaki’s administration, the Ksh really gained against the dollar and it even exchanged at an average of Kshs.67 to US $1. When this exchange rate surpassed the three-month period, it became the norm until the post-election violence happenstance. The reality is that we are going to experience the current exchange rate for quite a number of months. In fact to complicate matters, the US Federal Reserve raised the interest rates by 0.25% and this is likely to weaken the shilling further by the mere virtue of having the foreign transactions done in dollars.

Fourthly, inflation will increase relatively, though marginally. One of the major factors that has enabled inflation to remain below 10% for the last three years are the low oil prices. As a country we are very lucky that the local currency has depreciated but the rates of inflation have been modest. Recalling the economic situation in 2011, the shilling fell to an all-time low of Kshs.107 for US $1 and the rate of inflation spiraled to around 19%. What if the oil prices were high? I bet the current inflation rate could hit the roof. The low oil prices are not a local phenomenon that the government can use as a chest-thumping opportunity to toot its political horn because it is a global economic phenomenon.

One may wonder what is really driving the oil prices south. There are two main circumstances but all can be summarized under the classical theoretical and practical aspect of demand and supply. The first circumstance that has resulted in the lower world oil prices is the production and consumption pattern of oil by the United States of America. Currently, the USA is producing a lot oil internally and has hence lowered significantly the quantities that it purchases from the leading oil producing countries in the world. This has freed the amounts that were being purchased and consumed by the US economy and as a result, there is a lot of supply of the oil produced by the OPEC countries. In addition to this, most of the European, Asian and African countries haven’t experienced a surge in demand for oil. Hence, simplistically, the increased supply in oil coupled with a relatively depressed demand by the US has meant that oil prices are relatively low.

The second aspect is the low demand of oil by China owing to its sluggish rate of economic growth rate. The fact that China is the world’s second largest economy implies that its consumption of oil is usually relatively high. For two years or so, the economic growth rate in China has slowed down and as a consequence, its demand for oil has fizzled hence its importation of significantly lower quantities of oil. Her lower demand and consumption for oil has led to a relatively increased supply of oil as the initial amount she consumed was considerably higher and has hardly found alternative markets elsewhere. Back to inflation, however, I tend to hold the view that marginal increases will take place as we draw closer to the general election. Since August of last year, inflation has been on the increase from 5.84% to 8.01% in the month of December.

Fifthly, the 40% rate of unemployment is expected to increase as the one million jobs per annum promise by the Jubilee administration has remained a pipe-dream. I read some mind-puzzling statistics last year that in 2014 about 750,000 jobs were created in the formal and informal sectors. This is some sort of delusion going by the current state of economic affairs. After all the government can doctor statistics in its favor. Every year, the number of job seekers that are released into the job market outnumber by far the employment opportunities created. Entrepreneurship is the ultimate answer and easier access to the finances incentivized by the government purposefully to lend the youth ought to be actualized. 

Finally, the balance of payment deficits of the Kenyan economy will worsen. This means that the amount to be spent on the imports will highly and largely superimpose that realized from the exporting activities. The reasons that will increase the BoP deficit are intertwined to a weakened shilling and/or a strong dollar and the perennial exportation of primary commodities to the global market.

In 2016 therefore, we should not expect a heightened increase and intensification of economic activities. We may possibly witness a lower rate of economic growth rate compared to the last three years much to the chagrin of the citizenry. But our hands are tied; the investors are usually circumspect and speculative in nature especially when elections are beckoning and the exogenous/external shocks can hardly be avoided by a developing economy like ours. That’s the manacle.