By Ogunyo Thiringi
Can capital intensive economic growth ease chronic poverty?
Since the year 2002, Kenya spearheaded ambitious economic growth that has largely been capital intensive. Leaders from neighbouring nations seems to be borrowing from this messy approach that pulls inhabitants into chronic poverty, Kenya being an example.
The point is; chronic poverty in sub-saharan Africa can’t be eliminated by the trendy capital intensive investments splashed around by bureaucrats for PR gimmicks and corruption.
The year 2015 was set many years back as correct period for full eradication of poverty and hunger. The two ills were the main MDG (Millennium Development Goal) number one then. I remember in late 90s and early 2000, several nations pegged their hopes on eliminating poverty and hunger by 2015, which obviously was an ambitious timeline. It turned out to be a mirage allover.
Kibaki’s regime registered strong economic growths throughout his ten year corruption riddled reign that brought scattered growths but were never sufficient to ease widespread chronic poverty Kenya.
A country’s good economic fortunes can never alleviate the lot of the very poor. Gas and oil deposit finds in Turkana and discoveries of coal deposits won’t make significant dent on those region’s poverty levels even if exploited for decades.Things will remain moot!.
It means poverty in a population is a complex phenomenon with socio-political and cultural aspects that any development programme shouldn’t overlook its complex nature. State led programmes are always focused on income generation as a way out of poverty but this is never the best approach. Its the undoing sub-saharan economies perfects.
Am saying capital intensive economic growths does not address chronic poverty. The form and nature of growth matters to a country and its people depending on their own realities. Jubilee regime wastes huge public funds on highly-mechanised and capital intensive investments like SGR but on the ground, it doesn’t translate to economic uptake of citizens on even basic livelihoods. Agricultural economies should have a growth that is felt more in agricultural sector because agriculture makes it easy for the poor to engage in various economic activities that spur “tangible” growths and investments.
I mean agriculture is the most vital sector a government can invest billions in to fight poverty. China, Egypt and Israel did it. The very poor are involved in activities as smallholders and as labourers.
Jubilee administration must re-focus heavily on agriculture and irrigation for economic growth and human development that targets hard-to-reach populations. Huge capital intensive investments drags economies into debts and corruption. Underprivileged and marginalized lots are either unaware of government programmes that eats huge tax revenues or they lack power to engage in government interventions due to state bureaucracy or corruption. Where poverty reduction interventions exists, they must target chronically poor lot.