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Kenya’s economic success lies on fiscal discipline

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By Joseph Lister Nyaringo​

In a country with a thriving economy and democracy and where the rule of law is respected through an existing impartial justice system, you are likely to find the existence of a value-driven citizenry where character and ethics are the spinning wheels.

Several factors make nations different from others depending on the way they manage their public affairs. In 2016, Sweden managed its waste (garbage) so well that the country was compelled to have its recycling plants import garbage to keep them running! What a revolutionary and efficient system?

I wonder why our “City in the Sun” cannot borrow what the Swedish are doing differently. I hope the Nairobi governor, Mike Sonko can do something to improve waste management in our State capital.

Something spectacular that we can term as a financial miracle happened in Singapore last month when Finance minister Heng Swee Keat announced a cash bonus of between $ 100 to $300 for citizens aged above 21 years old. This was arrived at because of a budget surplus in the Southeast Asia country.

The positive gesture to the citizens of Singapore by their government can only be possible through fiscal responsibility and discipline… government officials tasked with utilizing tax payer funds do it with great care and accountability.

One wonders who bewitched Kenya. We over depend on foreign which ends up in the pockets of a few.

In Canada early this month, more than 500 doctors in the province of Quebec opposed a salary hike negotiated by a medical union. They did so out of love of country and support for a strong public system. The doctors pointed out that it was immoral to get a pay hike when patients and lower cadre medical practitioners like nurses are not well remunerated.

This is a rare occurrence and only possible in a country with income equality and effective fiscal management.

The above examples from Sweden, Singapore and Canada don’t mean that the countries sit on gold mines. It takes better leadership practices, patriotism, commitment to public welfare, transparency and accountability to reach such milestones.

In fact, the three countries aren’t much different from Kenya, since we are blessed with plenty of natural resources and a better climate.

If regular citizens and folks in government can inculcate ethical values, we are likely to have a better society. Note that, without morality in the way we conduct public and private affairs, we are doomed as a country.

We need to remember that its isn’t mean feat for an employee to decline a salary hike. It takes sacrifice and solid principles grounded on patriotism, character and integrity. The decision by the Canadian doctors to decline a revised salary scheme is a rare gesture globally in industrial relations.

It’s sad that despite having great economists, Kenya is trapped in economic quagmire year in year out.

We have failed to utilize the taxes we collect and the loans we procure from development partners to spur economic development in the country.

Just recently, the Kenya revenue authority stated that it failed to meet its half-year target by KSh20 billion in tax collection.

Is it not prudent then to challenge Mr. John Njiraini, the KRA Commissioner General, to tell Kenyans why the tax body failed to meet its target despite being provided with all the requisite tools to conduct tax collection responsibilities?

Late last year, the Principal Secretary in the National Treasury, Kamau Thugge, openly revealed that hundreds of millions of shillings in payments made through the e-Citizen platform ended up in private bank accounts… What Kenyan tax payers should ask is this: was Mr. Thugge questioned or investigations conducted to divulge the truth on this open theft of public funds?

Just last week, Mr. Henry Rotich, the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury openly revealed that the government had difficulties funding its project because of a Kshs84 billion deficit. Obviously, Kenyan taxpayers need an explanation on how the country sunk into this deficit.
Mr. Rotich’s suggestion of slashing Kshs 17 billion which is allocated to counties is likely to impair county operation and therefore jeopardize devolution.
What is even more ironical is that, the Rotich report comes immediately after the discovery of a private bank account purportedly operated by top government officials where public funds where siphoned to.

It’s tragic to wash dirt under the carpet only to begin whining after we get sick because of the dirty! The most critical questions we should all ask ourselves are these: Why are our fiscal plans and responsibilities upside down? Why is it that there is too much greed and looting by those tasked to manage tax payers funds?

Its worthy to remember that, what is conceived in the mind defines the decisions we make in life. According to Gautama Buddha, the ancient spiritual teacher of Buddhism, what we think, we become.

A corrupt mind will compel us to be corrupt, while an evil mind will lead us to commit evil. It takes a willing mind to walk away from tribalism, nepotism, violence, molestation, theft, dishonesty and bribery if we think broadly the negative impact the said vices bring to society.

The destiny of our society is pegged on actions, thoughts, habits and the character of every citizen.

Corruption is corruption whether it’s through Anglo Leasing, Goldenberg, stealing your neighbour’s chicken or price gouging by unscrupulous business people. The sum total of it all is corruption, and economic doom for Kenya.

We are thought about moral uprightness in most religions, but this doesn’t seem to transform us. It’s hard to transform unless we are ready to observe, preserve and apply ethical values in our everyday lives. It’s only through a value-driven citizenry by members of society and those in power that Kenya can transform.

Individuals tasked with fiscal management of Kenya should be driven by patriotism, honest and integrity. They must operate under discipline and responsibility which is devoid of greed and thievery. This is the surest way that we can be at par with developed nations of Asia, North America and Europe.

​Nyaringo is a regular commentator on social justice,
and President of Kenya Patriotic Movement
a US based diaspora lobby group

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