15 March 2008

Kenya: Bloated Cabinet Won't Help Reforms


Nairobi — The country seems to be out of a political crisis, thanks to the pace deal signed by PNU's President Kibaki and Mr Raila Odinga of ODM. But the economy is in the doldrums as result of the post-election violence, thus the road ahead is long and rough.

Almost all sectors of the economy have affected, between 500,000 and 600,000 Kenyans need to be resettled, the infrastructure needs to be fixed, tourism needs to be revived and the Kenya Association of Manufacturers puts the total loss at Sh30 billion.

And to bring the economic performance back to what it was before the elections, cutting down the Executive's excesses is a vital reform agenda and economic policy that the Government must adopt urgently. The proposed holistic reforms to usher in a new social, economic and political order needs funds, whatever the source.

In his speech on being declared president 0n December 30, President Kibaki pledged to form a lean, efficient and effective cabinet. But he threw the pledge to the wind almost immediately he took office. And as things stand now, we may end up with a cabinet larger that those during the Kenyatta and the Moi eras. And this despite the people's plight as inflation soars.

President Kibaki and Mr Odinga must discard undisclosed and unwritten pre-election pacts with faceless king-makers. Sycophants, fanatics, praise singers, liars, political lapdogs as well as ethnic and clan barons will take the centre stage in negotiating plumb jobs, deals, tenders and the like.

They will regroup to recoup what they invested in last year's presidential campaigns. The temptation to reward them is very likely, given that they will be called upon to fund another campaign in 2012. Mr Odinga, for instance, promised ODM parliamentary nomination losers plum job should ODM form the government in order to please and hold the members together.

But let's take note of what US television comedian Bill Cosby once said: "I don't know the secret of success, but the secret of failure is trying to please everybody."

At all costs and against all odds, the leaders must put the interest of the people before theirs. Kenyans expect President Kibaki and Prime Minister-designate Odinga to give them a small and efficient cabinet.

We must not lose sight of the fact that were the Government less corrupt, were we to exercise financial restraint and spend money wisely, we would be able to fund our development, and not go to donors cap in hand for aid.

Should the proposed cabinet size become a reality, we will have to reach out to donors, making us dependent on foreign aid. A government that cares about its people devotes resources to tackling their problems. So instead of investing heavily in, for example, national defence and in government officials, it makes more sense to direct funds where it matters most.

The grand coalition must have the interest, commitment and motivation to introduce and implement social policies that will address the needs of the poor majority - the youth and women. Instead of paying so much money to political fat cats, we should pay well the critical working forces - teachers, lecturers, doctors, nurses, police and so on. The national resources must be channelled into good governance, poverty reduction, infrastructure, healthcare, education and research.

Highly educated and trained Kenyans leave the country every year for greener pastures. The brain drain is one of the negative results of bad governance and policies, and Kenya must guard against this scenario. In appointments to the Cabinet and other senior positions in government, we must tap into our rich diversity.

The writer is the coordinator of the Robbah Nagah pastoralist support programme working with communities in northern Kenya.

Copyright © 2008 The Nation. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.