Thursday, March 6, 2014

NOTHING MUCH TO SMILE ABOUT AFTER JUBILEE COALITION'S FIRST YEAR

Contrary to the pomp witnessed a year ago when the new Kenya Administration took over, the first anniversary of the Jubilee Government of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, has passed quietly, completely overshadowed by the shenanigans in the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), and the results of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations announced a few days ago.

Other than the low-key Cabinet retreat taking place at the exclusive Mt. Kenya Safari Club where senior Government officials are taking stock of successes and challenges over the past year, there is no visible signs that the watershed probationary period has finally come to an end. Both Uhuru and Kenyatta have told Cabinet Secretaries that a lot more is expected from them from now on. That caution was necessary because some Cabinet Secretaries have been sleeping on the job, with nothing to show during the past 12 months.

That the new government has had a very bumpy ride since it came to power last March cannot be overstated. There have been more challenges than successes, and the teething problems have been more pronounced than usual.

Uhuru and Ruto took over under the shadow of political and legal protests. Although Raila's attempts to overturn Jubilee's victory failed at the Supreme Court, his efforts at frustrating the new regime persist.

The Uhuru/Ruto Coalition has therefore had an uphill task in trying to fulfil its key campaign promises. One major success relates to free maternal care. Thousands of Kenyans who were previously denied pre- and post-natal care are today enjoying free State services. We are now breeding a much healthier population than before.

The other achievement is the successful launch of the irrigation scheme in Tana River which is expected to transform lives in one of the poorest regions in Kenya and to contribute to food security. The smooth implementation of the LAPSSET project in Lamu is another Jubilee success story.

However, the Government is yet to kick-start its much talked about Standard Gauge Railway line from Mombasa to Malaba; and is facing serious challenges in as far as the ambitious School Laptop Project is concerned. The Government has also been unable to get the majority of Kenyans on board its policies, and recent opinion polls have shown an erosion of confidence in Jubilee especially among the unemployed youth and marginalised groups.

In the past week, I visited some tourist hotels along the Coast and talked to players in the industry. What I found was that the beach tourism has virtually collapsed as a result of security scares driven by travel advisories from major suppliers.

Americans and Europeans believe the terror threat is real along the Kenyan Coast where Jihad ism appears to be taking root. This is seriously hurting the industry. Because of the absence of tourists, hundreds of employees have been laid off; families have been denied a decent existence and small scale traders have been driven into destitution. This shows the Government's failure in tackling insecurity in the country.

But the biggest failure of the Jubilee Government has been in its inability to rein in grand corruption. The state of graft is a big worry to locals and overseas investors. For whatever reasons, the initial government commitment to deal with corrupt public officials appear to have waned, something that is giving room to big time dealers to operate with impunity. The most influential citizens continue to manipulate their way into multi-million shilling tenders with inflated quotes and shoddy work.

At the lower level, motorists still have to bribe their way out of traffic offences; citizens still must part with ""kitu kidogo" to be attended to promptly by government officers; and money continue to change hands at the ports of entry, at weighbridge stations and even within police stations.

There was a lot of hope in Government pronouncements that tough action would be taken to deal with corrupt elements, but nothing tangible has so far been seen.

I hope the Mt. Kenya Safari Club session will come up with practical solutions to these problems, otherwise the 20-year Jubilee rule prediction could turn out to be nothing but hot air.

And that is my say.