Before me is wooden coffee table. On top of it are the daily newspapers save The Standard. I can’t help but hover my eyes past Pastor Mackenzie’s face on the front page over and over. He looks like he is thinking about something, awful perhaps. Or not. Maybe he just remembered his cow hadn’t been milked for a whole week and he’s worried its udders would burst. On my ass is a rather old brown leathered bench that would make a small but neat bed if these government officials decide to make me camp here in the waiting lounge of their offices.
As I pan my head around, I’m surrounded by glass windowed offices with no signs of life. Why? You may ask. The answer could lie in the events airing on the TV hanging by the wall a few strides away from me. I passively listen to what is now becoming jabber stories. (not jaba) from more government and international officials chewing microphones in the name of a national prayer breakfast. I better be careful what I say here now lest I bite the hand that is about to feed me. The TV jabber is mixed with sounds of a lady security guard mumbling prayers by the reception desk. And now that I think about it, it looks like Mackenzie is trying to listen to her prayers and is like, “Hizo sasa ni maombi gani?”
I’m stuck in this waiting state because I’m told the Director has attended the National prayer Breakfast; which is totally fine because he or she has to and I didn’t have a better day to come and have them sort out my concerns. What I should have done better however, is my choosing of the time. So sometimes, mapema sio best it seems. What I feel is not fine is the event itself. So prepare for a rant that is partly motivated by my restlessness in these government chambers.
What came to mind when the security guard said the officials had attended the National Prayer Breakfast was, “Another one?” Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind prayers, but at the time, I suddenly felt like now it came at the expense of something else. My critique for these governance decisions rose in a manner that it doesn’t normally. So here are my two cents, prayer is fine, but it’s Wednesday for Chris’ sake; a work day. The country’s economy is falling with its legs up, probably risking international embarrassment and yet the government has convened to share a cup of tea and bow their heads and parliamentarians forming their own choir; something that can be done and has been done on a Saturday or Sunday. So, it makes me want to ask, what the hell are we doing folks?
I can’t help myself because I feel like I’m in a government office on a weekend or public holiday yet it’s a Wednesday. What ever happened to time for work is work and time for other things, is other things? Or am I the only one who feels like there are misaligned priorities somewhere at the top of the food chain.
Or not! Not entirely, because after I sat to write that brief rant, I spoke to a political expert who is also an employee of the National Assembly and apparently, her two cents were more expensive than mine. So I will take the opportunity to educate you as well fellow mwananchi based on her sentiments – as to why we might be viewing the actions of the government with the wrong eye. Therefore, I accredit these political analyses to her because hell, what do I know about politricks yet I only watch the news after a long while when I start to forget which country I’m in.
And you might also notice that this is a new blog category; I just decided to try something new. Initially, I was to call it Politricks but on the spot creativity recalibrated it to Skirt of the Nation. You know a skirt (or its dress counterpart) is frail and vulnerable. You have to be very conscious and careful when you wear one, not that I have ever worn one. Wait, a leso doesn’t fall under the skirts class, does it? A man has to wear a leso at some point in his life. Nyuma ya tent for more details. You have to watch your step when in a skirt because a trip or one naughty blow of the wind could have you trending in the news or worse, on Twitter. Ask Jill. And isn’t that basically what the government does every other time? Tripping and falling thus exposing their dirty linen and we watch and hear all about it in the news? And just so you may know its a skirt affair, doesn’t every concerned individual scatter to cover it up? Then they’ll tell us what we think we saw is not what we saw. How Sonko Rescue team came through quickly for one Millie is an amusingly perfect example. It’s not just the government by the way; the whole nation and everyone in it is busy doing their best to stay decent but some winds are stronger than others, like the winds from Shakahola. And when they blow, some skirts bow up and our jaws fall down.
As we speak, the skirt in concern has to do with the economy and the finance bill. So I will leave my unschooled knowledge of national and current affairs here and usher in Political Analyst, Sue.
“Just to bring clarity,” she began, “The National Prayer Breakfast is an event that is planned and organized by parliament every year and so it isn’t affiliated with other State Prayer functions that have been planned abruptly. In fact, in the prayer day today they even reminisced moments of the last one and how it was. And so parliament set a calendar date for the day thus, not abruptly planned for.”
“Fair enough,” I said, “Lastly, now, you obviously know how the economy is, most of us commoners don’t understand why. All we do is complain and complain – but is there a reasonable explanation as to why the price of basic commodities is going up every waking day. Because it gives the impression that the (this) government doesn’t have an idea about what its doing and so, does it?
“I think it’s not about what the government doesn’t know, the government is fully aware. I’m not in any way in defence of what the government is doing. Just because I attend state functions, it’s my obligation to do so. But I think from their point, it was probably too early to start making big promises, you remember the big proclamations? You know wananchi are like children, if you tell them I will bring you a sweet tomorrow, and you fail to bring it, they will frown and grow disappointed in you. Children don’t care about anything else, all they know is that this is it, the sweet is what they want. That is how the public is.
So the public has so far stayed low but in fact, there has really been a lot of disinterest from the public in matters governance. For the government to be actually doing this, it’s trying to rally the public to get interested. For example, by the time we were going for elections, the public was already tired, you know. We vote and this happens, we do this and this happens. Therefore, when they were to vote, they didn’t do it. Now we have a government that is setting its own agenda and others, who apparently didn’t vote – are discontented.
Either way, as Kenyans, we were shielded a lot. You know there were many things the government used to pay for on some of these products; they are called subsidies. Now the government of the day has decided to lift those subsidies because the more they pay, they more they borrow yet the government is trying to reduce the debt. Also, the government is doing so because it is a requirement by some of these financial institutions. You cannot just keep taking loans; okay if you’re taking, show us what you can do to guarantee that you can pay back. They give you things you need to do and must do even if it means lifting some of these subsidies. These subsidies were in place so as not to hurt us, but at what cost?
So some of these subsidies had to go so we can begin to function economically without debt on our heads.
You have to understand that the government is faced with the challenge of paying off debt and succeeding economically at the same time. And in my opinion, that’s the problem and it’s going too fast because now the rate at which the cost of living is rising is very high. It’s like trying to juggle bowling pins while riding a bicycle; it’s next to impossible and strenuous. So we have to put strategies to ensure we grow economically while ridding off debt. But I wish the government would pause and do one thing. And what is the priority? If it’s paying debt, fine. Let’s lift subsidises and stop from there. When you remove subsidies, it’s actually enough. But when you start to over-tax, you want us to pay the debt and at the same time you want to transform our economy drastically. That’s going to be strenuous.
So does the government know? Of course, it knows. The only difference is, take for example you can say you can do this job in two days. Somebody says three days and another one says no, this can be done in one week. The government of the day thinks it can pull it off and therefore sets its agendas, policies and strategies.
The only problem I have is they are trying to do so much at a go. People say the government wastes a lot of resources. When they come in, they might easily blow off because it wastes money and again, the early proclamations make them scatter to meet those promises. It’s also trying to work on its own, it’s really not working with some people or groups of people and so there is a lot of sabotage from other quarters. So the government may force a particular way just to punish those workers of sabotage but at the cost of the public.
So I might be working for the government but I am not the government, at the end of the day, I am a common mwananchi as well. When the 3% housing levy lands, I am affected just as much. But as someone who works for the government and am a patriotic member of the public, I understand the benefits of all these even though we feel like the cost of living has been going so high by the day. In fact these benefits go beyond the local interests to international ones. Global politics is also important to make sure we keep getting investors and entrepreneurs flowing into the country.
What the president is saying is we suffer now and enjoy later. But the problem is we are not used to suffering now and enjoying later. However, it doesn’t also mean that I agree entirely with his methods, because you cannot keep compiling everyone into one box. This country doesn’t need that; it needs you to attend to specific needs within specific levels. You tax me as your civil servant through the 3% housing levy to help somebody who is living in the slums to start living with dignity and eventually, I go poor and go back to the same slums. That logic doesn’t make sense. And who told the president that we’re not supporting people? We may not be paying the 3% but we’re probably supporting people in our families and communities. If you really want it to be in good will, let it be an open contribution from a voluntary point instead of forcefully milking it from us.
Anyway, basically it’s government doing its job, how its doing it is now the great debate. And even if we had the opposition being in government, they probably would have borrowed more and we would have complained about the rising debt. I remember when President Uhuru was coming and was borrowing, we complained bitterly and now these ones are trying to reduce on the borrowing and being hard on other things, yet we’re still complaining. So everyone will complain at a particular point. Knowing who to prioritize and what to set forward is now this government’s duty with disregard to what critics will say.
I think the President knows the weight of these things and I have a feeling he will make an amendment to the finance bill because I see there is a memorandum for public participation in the decision making. I think that will be an opportunity for members of the public to come out and air their concerns, and not be ignorant. I think our problem is ignorance…”
And true to her feeling, the bill was amended. I guess we can say she feels so good?
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