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Sunday, January 26, 2014

I Am The President of the County and Everybody Should Shut Up

Governors in most parts of the country are in serious trouble.

They need to find money fast to fund key projects without which their political careers could be over even before the next General elections. Nothing wrong with that except that taking into consideration the current hardships Kenyans are facing and increased and more aggressive tax collection from the Central government, trying to collect any more money through taxes in the counties is now akin to attempting to squeeze blood out of a stone. Not to mention the fact that most county budgets are inflated to accommodate the ongoing fleecing of public funds through lavish lifestyles and unnecessary extras forced on the long suffering wananchi by the country reps and governors.

The response of the people to the new levies has been swift and predictable. There have been massive demonstrations and protests countrywide. In Kakamega county proposed taxes on livestock has elicited angry responses from the people with so much focus being on the beloved Luhya chicken that nobody is talking about other controversial parts of the same county finance bill that seeks to tax the dead by introducing hefty levies for burials.

In Meru unprecedented violence has swept the county over proposed taxes mostly on small traders.

As you read this, Mombasa has a serious “mboga” crisis because the main vegetable wholesale market at Kongowea has been shut down over protests that have to do with the implementation of new levies. And I can go on and on.

It is rather obvious that governors and their county assemblies need to find new creative ways of raising funds without taking the easy way out of imposing hefty taxes indiscriminately. There are many innovative ways of raising funds by cashing in on the unique attractive features of a county. Admittedly they are riskier and require lots of hard work which most governors do not seem prepared to put in. They would rather have more free time to move around in their official cars feeling important and being called “your Excellency”.

Actually most of these governors would not be facing the problems they are now facing had they hit the ground running and used most of their time to open up and improve income generating efforts for their people. Instead most of them hit the ground spending heavily. Now they are all in panic mode which makes creativity difficult if not impossible.

There are counties that can earn serious revenue by finding ways to impose levies on visitors entering the county which would have the huge political advantage of minimal effect on the locals. The ideas are really endless if one looks for them hard enough. The other way to raise taxes is to help people increase their revenues significantly and then tax only the higher brackets of income.

This is a time to think out of the box but what we have ended up with in the counties are the usual suspects as governors doing the usual things that central government has been doing to raise taxes to enable more corruption and looting by a select few. The same disease has just been transferred to the brand new county governments. County reps have ended up being miniature versions of Mpigs and just as hungry to fleece the public coffers at the least excuse. Sometime last year I was in Machakos and we bumped into some county reps who were overly excited about an upcoming trip to South Africa to “mull over the county budget.” One of them told us that they were not able “to see” the budget proposals properly in Kenya and needed to get out there somewhere to think straight. Such unnecessary trips are of course financed from taxes raised in the county.

Who or what will heal our politics? The mantra of make-maximum-cash-from-politics-who-cares-where-the-money-is-coming-from is thriving in our counties. But this time it is on a head-on-collision with the people where they can feel the impact almost immediately. Yet even the most uneducated common man can see that the burden of having too many representatives who need salaries and perks is more than crippling. There is even talk now of reducing the number of counties to 14 to cut down on costs.

Interestingly this is a proposal that could easily sail through even a dreaded referendum judging the mood of the Kenyan public just now.

But our county leaders don’t see what could be coming and would care less when they are enjoying the gravy train so much. After all it is eat and fleece to the maximum today, tomorrow will take care of itself.


P.S. The Mombasa County government's bright idea for generating revenue was to raise the levy for each lorry entering Kongowea market with produce to sell from upcountry from Kshs 2,500 to a whooping Kshs 7,500!! Some observers say that reducing the levy instead by say Kshs 1,000 would have attracted more lorries and more revenue at the end of the day. Apparently common sense is truly uncommon amongst those raising taxes in the counties.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Kenyatta is one lucky politician because he rules a country where he is able to scream out at the public by shouting I am the president of the country - Kenya -and everybody should shut up and do as he says at all times, and for as long as he's the main occupant of that politically cursed house on the hill.

Luckily for Kenyatta, all that the citizenry can do is resort to murmuring among themselves instead of putting his feet to the fire for things he does wrongly, others that he has refused to do or failed to do, and many more important things he has yet to tackle as pledged during his countrywide presidential campaign.

In the mean while, more than 7,000 people took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations against Kenyatta's beleaguered counterpart in France, a man known as Francois Hollande.

The leading politician - Francois Hollande - has angered so many French people due to his bad leadership, poor handling of the country's economy, etc.

Yet when it comes to an East African country known as Kenya, all that the citizenry can do is shut up and toe the line - or else - whenever their president commands them to do so.

If a group of 7,000 patriot Kenyans dare take to streets of the nation's capital in protest against Kenyatta's wiggling leadership, questionable handling of the country's economy and day-to-day running of the government, including favoritism, nepotism and cronyism when it comes to high level government appointments, exclusive ambassadorial selections, etc.

Then the demonstrators are bound to be met with ... force courtesy of the nation's security apparatus, his diehard supporters, regional political supporters, henchmen in positions of power, et al., parliamentarians who have become accustomed to having their way in all things, among others.

So, all that Kenyans can do in the meantime, is to be very grateful and above all, shut up their collective mouths because the president has said so.

Anonymous said...

Ati, raia are there to be seen and not heard. And they can only speak when they spoken to by the big leaders. Otherwise, they should always know their rightful place within the country, and stay put as usual for their own good and for the sake of 'public good'.

Anonymous said...

Lest the hubris, greed, circles of eating-together, mismanagement and wasteful spending of public funds in Kilifi County gets forgotten.

After valuation the county government paid the Sh140 million for the beachfront house near the Kilifi Old Ferry.

The beachfront property has a large swimming pool and a servant quarter with three bedrooms.

Wow! Servant quarters in a region that once was infamous for forced labour and shipment of slaves for centuries?

Anthony King seems to be one of the few voices of reason in Kilifi County, given his concerns and understandably so, when he remarked, sometimes it makes me wonder whether elected leaders know the mandate to wananchi. Buying a big house with people crawling on the ground as a result of hunger does not make sense at all.

While another county official seems to take a different view in favour of the status quo, and he does not mince words when he shamelessly utters, he [governor] is the president of the county and should be respected. It is because of his status that it was decided that house was fit for him to stay in.

The unfortunate residents of Kilifi County are yet to see the worst kind mismanaged county administration that does not care about the electorate other than their own political interests and personal comfortable needs.

Anonymous said...

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140206-can-drones-be-hacked

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