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The East African : Sep 8th 2014
18 The EastAfrican OPINION SEPTEMBER 6-12,2014 PUBLISHED WEEKLY BY THE NATION MEDIA GROUP EA becoming mo≥e competitive but p≥og≥ess slow As was expected, East Africa recorded mixed re- sults in the latest global competitiveness rankings. The good news, however, according to the World Economic Forum report, is that the region as a whole recorded an above average score on some key indicators that determine economic growth. This means that the respective countries have tried to maintain certain positive standards in some economic and social indicators that contribute to growth. One of the most noticeable areas where progress has been made is the general improvement of the business environment in the region, a clear proof that economic integration is working. Kenya, for example, has made tremendous ef- forts, moving up six places to reach the 90th position, registering progress in 11 out of the 12 pillars, most noticeably in market efficiency. Its financial markets are more developed and the labour market more efficient. The country has also managed to reduce the number of days and procedures needed to start a business, hence further improving the business environment. However, despite the silver lining, dark clouds still hang over the region. The global ratings of Uganda (129), Tanzania (121) and Burundi (146) are all below the 100 mark and many places beneath Rwanda, which is the best in the region, being ranked at 62. Apart from Rwanda and Kenya, the other three countries fell further in the global competitiveness ranking. This means that some issues are not working out as expected. Clearly, more effort is needed to improve the global ratings of the region and help attract more foreign direct investment. To achieve this goal, the region needs to enhance security, which has deteriorated in the recent past due to a spate of terrorist attacks and other international crimes like poaching and drug and human trafficking. On this note, countries need to ratify the Defence and Security Protocol and commence its implementation without further delay. The World Economic Forum report also noted that poor infrastructure, especially road and railway networks and unreliable electricity, is hindering growth and development in the region. To overcome the challenge, member countries need to fast-track the infrastructure priority projects identified for the period 2012 to 2020. The health system in the region is still in a shambles, unable to tackle many emerging and reemerging diseases effectively. The report, for example, cites Tanzania’s poor health indicators and high levels of communicable diseases as a concern. The situation is no different in the other EA countries. The five countries must allocate more funds to the health sector and encourage private investment. Though the region’s population is young, economic growth and development can only be achieved by a healthy population. The five member states still need to do a lot more to fight corruption, which the report says must be tackled if the region aims to be as competitive as the European Union. A PUBLICATION OF THE NATION MEDIA GROUP LINUS GITAHI: Chief Executive Officer TOM MSHINDI: Acting Editorial Director PAMELLA SITTONI: Managing Editor Nation Centre, Kimathi Street, P.O. Box 49010-00100 G.P.O. Nairobi. Tel. 3288000, 2221222, 337710, Fax 214531, 213946. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org © Nation Media Group Africa is increasingly open and globalisation is happening at a terrific rate.” Cha≥les Onyango-Obbo ments are terrible at managing such diseases, and that the people’s lives are still ruled by superstition. There are some other interesting, and S quite encouraging, things that we have also seen too. We learnt that the DRC has among the continent’s leading Ebola specialists, and it offered its expertise The most obvious, that several folks have noted, is that Africa is increasingly an open continent and globalisation is happening at a terrific rate. When the first epidemic hit DR Congo in 1976, most of the rest of us learnt much about it only as history, especially when the virus visited northern Uganda at the end of the 1990s. And in Uganda, that outbreak was con- fined to the north, without an emergency being declared and soldiers having to enforce a quarantine. Not these days. Roads have been built; o the Ebola carnage continues in West Africa, and the number of dead is nearing 2,000. What Ebola has taught us is that our govern- Ebola at the doo≥, Af≥ican solida≥ity out the window state-run bus companies have collapsed and private businessmen have flooded the highways with new buses; and regionally Ebola is a frequent flyer. In West Africa, it has notched up more flying miles than the leading platinum card carriers. The “new” diseases are more demo- cratic and egalitarian than the old ones. Jiggers, for example, tormented the very poor. As, indeed, did malaria, cholera, and so on. The privileged had shoes and lived in houses with cement floors, so they could foil jiggers; they slept under nets and sprayed their houses for mosquitoes. The first disease that broke down wealth and class barriers in our part of the world was Aids… and in some countries it ravaged the middle class more than the poor. Ebola killed peasants and humble peo- ple in the market, but it came through airports where the high and mighty transit, leading several African airlines, including Kenya Airways, to suspend flights to the worst hit countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia. Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was ahead of the times in his pursuit of a United States of Africa. The continent just isn’t ready, it seems. By mid-July, most African countries were scrambling to assure the world that they were not Sierra Leone, Guinea or Liberia. I didn’t even hear even a squeak from a non-Ebola country about pan-African solidarity with the three Time fo≥ a tax boycott as MCAs join the fun B ribery and corruption are now, apparently, legal. Let us ignore past affronts and focus solely on the outrages of this past month. This month alone, Members of County Assemblies werer offered a range of goodies in exchange for their opposition to the constitutional referendum proposed by the Coalition for Reform and Democracy. The size of the bribe? A total of Ksh12 billion, equivalent to $136 million. Broken down as follows. Item one: a personal “grant” of Ksh2 million for each of the 2,100 MCAs for the purchase of personal cars. Despite the fact that the MCAs are already entitled to car loans from their counties — they’ve apparently rejected this entitlement as they argue their salaries are too small to service car loans. Item two: an additional amount to either finance the construction of offices for each of the MCAs at Ksh3 million each or provide a monthly rental amount of between Ksh20,000 and Ksh40,000. Despite the fact that the MCAs’ offices are meant to be provided through the County Assembly Service Boards. Item three: An additional amount to finance staff salaries for those offices. Moving right along. This month alone, another MCA add- ed insult to injury. His demand was for a monthly stipend to be paid to all the MCAs’ wives. To compensate for their “loneliness” as their husbands attend to their public duties. Confidently but ignorantly assuming that all MCAs are both male and married. Enough said. Moving right along again. The MCAs are not alone in their inflated sense of personal entitlement. This month, the Senators joined the chase after the public gravy train. They’ve forwarded to the Parliamentary Service Commission proposals for increases in their monthly allowances that would push their gross salaries to Ksh2.4 million a month. Their demands? Apparently indispensable for the carrying out of their duties? Item one: Ksh78,000 for “personnel emoluments”— to finance the hiring of a personal assistant, a secretary Until the legalised bribery and corruption ends. Until they’re reminded that they’re stealing from us and a driver. Does anybody, in this digital, do-it-yourself age, still have a secretary nowadays except in moribund and old-school public bureaucracies? Item two: Ksh168,000 for rent in the cities and Ksh140,000 for rent elsewhere. Item three: Ksh420,000 a month for “office consumables.” Coffee, tea and basic stationery? Item four: a Ksh500,000 “county allowance,” whatever that means. Item five: An additional allowance of 10 per cent of their basic salary for every Senator whose county includes more than four constituencies for every additional con- stricken countries in their most difficult moment. You cannot have a political or economic union of only the disease-free. There is an ironical footnote to all this; the most sympathetic country has been Morocco – which pulled out of the African Union years back, and hasn’t returned yet. Which only proves the point. Western countries are right to issue travel advisories. Travel advisories are just that; advice not to travel to a country or certain places. They don’t ban people from travelling. The Ebola travel advisories by African countries used exactly the same language as the Western travel advisories… except, as in the case of South Africa, they went much further. South Africa banned its citizens from travelling to the most affected countries in West Africa, and those from those countries from travelling down south. Period. We learnt that the Democratic Repub- lic of Congo exports more than conflict diamonds, music, dance styles, kitenge fashion, refugees, and warlords. Because of its previous experience it, together with Uganda, has among the continent’s leading Ebola specialists, and it offered its expertise to the troubled West African countries. Cha≥les Onyango-Obbo is edito≥ of Mail & Gua≥dian Af≥ica (mgaf≥ica.com). Twitte≥:@cobbo3 Senators too have decided to chase after the public gravy train.” L. Muthoni Wanyeki stituency represented. Item six: another one-off personal “grant” for a car. The national assembly, as though it is not equally venal, reacted with fury — threatening to dismiss the Parliamentary Service Commission should it consider these demands. The Coalition for Constitutional Implementation is checking in with the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission as to whether these “goodies” amount to bribery and, if so, it will be urging prosecution. At least somebody is reacting. Because money, as our parents taught us, doesn’t grow on trees. All of these “goodies” come from us. From our hard-earned money, whether through corporate or income tax or value-added tax. From what we pay for public borrowing, whether domestically or internationally. A tax boycott is in order. Until the legalised bribery and corruption ends. Until they’re reminded that what they’re stealing, they’re stealing from us. And from the public service delivery they’re expected to oversee. L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty Inte≥national’s ≥egional di≥ecto≥ fo≥ East Af≥ica, cove≥ing East Af≥ica, the Ho≥n and the G≥eat Lakes.
Sep 1st 2014
Sep 15th 2014