It’s that time of the year when you are preparing next year’s budget for presentation in parliament. Let me congratulate you for putting up a website where we can present our views on what we think our priorities should be. Hopefully this is not just a PR exercise but an effort to incorporate the populaces views. I’m certainly no expert on matters financial or running governments, but since you asked, here are my brief suggestions….
INFRASTRUCTURE/HR: The current government has done a good job in creating infrastructure. This is a key legacy pillar for our success as a nation, akin to FDR’s freeways in the US after the 2nd World War. Roads help people access inputs and markets, and open up the untapped potential of previously inaccessible areas. Universal education was also a great idea, developing our human potential so that all have some chance at ‘playing’ in the national economy. We certainly must not neglect continual investment in these important areas going forward.
FOOD SECURITY BY 2015: In my opinion, the most neglected plank of our economic development so far is food security. Borrowing from the example of southern neighbors like Malawi and Zambia should tell us that it doesn’t take a generation to attain this, just focus. Unrest across the continent demonstrate that this is a priority item for every government. A food surplus provides security for the nation, insures us against external shocks like fuel prices and also allows us to tap into a vast regional market.
How can our budget ensure that farmers are incentiived to regularly produce a bumper maize harvest and that the government has sufficient storage facilities for it? How can we incentivize diversification and provice education so that every smallholder plot in this country plants hardy indigenous food crops like cassava as a buffer against drought. How can we create mini-dams along all our major rivers to encourage small scale irrigation and make agricultural technology cheaply available through import duty waivers and tax holidays for manufacturers? How can we encourage mini-greenhouses in every county? In short, what will it take to make Kenya a food sufficient and exporting nation by 2015?
ENERGY: To save our rather battered environment, I suggest further measures to popularize LPG use as well as tax holidays for companies setting up mini-biogas production plants and importing solar panels. Also tax breaks for buildings that install solar panels and for industries that get up to 20% of their energy needs from renewable sources.
WATER: To address our perenial water shortages, what about tax breaks and appropriate laws to ensure every building in Nairobi and towns has a roof water harvesting system? It’s amazing we have many times the rainfall of Israel and yet not enough water!
GOVERNANCE: History books will report that a major area of failure for our current government was the widespread consensus that it was either unwilling or unable to rein in corruption. I suggest that a funding commitment needs to be made to strengthening bodies such as KACC, and that the government should also invest in some ad-spend to demonstrate what has already been done. Finally, perhaps a percentage of each constituencies CDF fund (county budget?) should be allocated to pay for an annual forensic audit, the results of which will be displayed in easy to understand terms in newspapers and a website? These would include projects undertaken, funds used, composition of commitees and a ranking of effectiveness. We certainly need to see more transparency in use of devolved funds going forward.
ROAD SAFETY: With the construction of all these mega-highways, my suspicion is that the death toll will become astronomical in the near future as most Kenyans have no idea how to drive on such highways. Mombasa Road has already been the graveyard of many dreams. Simple practices like merging and exiting properly, slow traffic keeping left and minimum speed limits will play a huge role in saving lives. So here’s an idea; why not introduce a new-generation smart-chip enabled Driver’s Licence that record previous traffic violations and could also double up as a national ID? To qualify for one, existing drivers will have to take 2-3 hours of driver’s ed from an accredited/equipped driving school. Not only should this hopefully help us drive better, it’s also a potential revenue generator for the government. There… did I just see you smile?
VISION 2030: Finally, the bible says that ‘without vision, a people are undrestrained’. I commend the government for the work of putting together the Vision 2030 secretariat to keep us focussed on a common vision as a nation. The view of many however is that this secretariat has had limited effectiveness, leading some to dub it the ‘Vision 2030 illusion secretariat’. I suggest that you put aside some funds to publicise and popularize this vision in easy to understand terms so that it is owned by the mwananchi. This will help ensure that subsequent governments don’t keep setting off in opposite directions (a people unrestrained) and that the populace has a yardstick to measure governments performance.
So, there you have it. I will certainly be listening to your budget speech with a lot of interest this year, as it’s the first where my opinion was actively sought. I look forward to a courageous and progressive budget that will move us forward into the future as a nation.
So reader … what are you’re own budget ideas, please post on the website link above and if possible leave a comment here!