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Daily Nation : February 4th 2014
DAILY NATION Tuesday February 4, 2014 Opinion 13 STOP THE PROPAGANDA | Samwel K. Kambi All should pursue dialogue and sobriety on issues of interest to Kenya’s workers I t pains when well thoughtout development projects meant to add value to our society are abruptly or recklessly politicised. Vested interests or not, this practice is abhorrent. The situation gets worse when those quarrelling over various grievances resort to personalised attacks, including mudslinging. It only serves to create confusion and undermine public confidence in public institutions. The storm raised over the Tassia Estate project is one such discomforting development. I am convinced it was entered into through a consultative, procedural process But I maintain that if some people noticed anomalies, they are welcome to point them out with a view to rectifying the problems. The counter argument about the use of email to seek opinion and concurrence that was employed to approve the now controversial variation of the cost is baffling because we have records where the same was applied in the past, even before I became a Cabinet secretary, and nobody raised a complaint. I do not know how that option was agreed upon. Those who created the board of directors of the NSSF with all the stakeholders represented were not foolish. They envisaged a practice of with a democratic, consultative framework. When we appear to go against this spirit, we are simply misrepresenting our workers. I have immense respect Labour Cabinet secretary Kambi consultation in developing policies and executing major undertakings and projects of the Fund. It is this spirit of dialogue and consultation that is directly under attack in this stand-off. When some board members having misgivings about various developments resort to verbal wars and creating tension, misunderstanding and even animosity at the NSSF, where is consultation. Dialogue only relates well with dialogue. Behaving like warlords while pretending to pursue dispute resolution contradicts the guiding principles of trade unionism and representation leadership. The originators of trade unionism wanted to do away with stand-offs in tackling workers’ rights and replaced it GEOPOLITICS | Jeffrey Frankel That would be bad enough if it were an isolated episode. But this is just the latest in a series of self-inflicted blows since the turn of the century that have needlessly undermined the US claim to global leadership. The IMF reform would have been an Why America has failed the leadership test T he US Congress has carelessly blocked a long-awaited reform of the International Monetary Fund. has tried to exercise global leadership. He pushed for the agreement to reform the IMF at the G-20 summit in Seoul in November 2010 (the first meeting to be hosted by a non-G-7 country), and he prevailed over understandable European reluctance to cede power. But congressional rejection of an important step in updating the allocation of quotas, which determine member states’ monetary contributions and voting power. The US was not being asked to contribute more money or lose its voting weight, which has always given it a unique veto power. Instead, the proposed increase in quotas for China, India, Brazil, and other emerging economies would have come largely at the expense of European countries. The change in IMF quotas is a partial and overdue response to the newcomers’ rising economic weight and Europe’s outdated dominance. Indeed, the principle of matching representation to countries’ contributions – sometimes known as the Golden Rule (“He who has the gold, rules”) – is probably one of the reasons that the IMF has usually been more effective than other international organisations (for example, the UN General Assembly). To be sure, US President Barack Obama international agreement that the president had painstakingly persuaded the rest of the world to accept is not a new pattern. It goes back a century, to President Woodrow Wilson’s inability to persuade a myopically isolationist Congress to approve the League of Nations. Global hegemony Since then, Congress has rejected the International Trade Organisation (1948), the SALT II nuclear agreement (1979), and the Kyoto Protocol (1997). Commentators have been warning since the 1980s that the US may lose its global hegemony for economic reasons – budget deficits, a declining share of global GDP, and the switch from net international creditor to net debtor – with the historical hypothesis of imperial overreach gaining renewed attention. But the main problem seems to be a lack of will rather than a thin wallet. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to describe the problem as one of wild swings in US domestic politics between excessive isolationism and excessive foreign intervention in response to shortterm events, and untempered by any longer-term historical perspective. These days, after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan at an estimated cost of $4 trillion (including the medical care that veterans will need for the rest of their lives), the pendulum has apparently swung back to isolationism. One had hoped that the shortsighted members of Congress who foolishly shut down the US government three months ago had become aware of the damage caused to America’s credibility. Most visibly, the Obama administration had to cancel its participation at the AsiaPacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali in October, impeding progress on the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership. It was widely reported that Asian countries concluded from Obama’s absence that they should cultivate ties with China instead. The growing power of China and other major emerging-market countries is a reality. That is precisely why it is so important that the US support a greater role for these countries in international institutions such as the IMF, the G-20, and APEC. Prof Frankel teaches Capital Formation and Growth at Harvard (c): Project Syndicate, 2014. www.projectsyndicate.org for workers. They are the lifeline of our economy. We should always strive to protect their interests. That is why I emphasise continuous dialogue and honest engagement at all times to address all matters to do with their welfare and their assets. These include: their salaries, their investments, their savings, their institutions and other welfare concerns. Creating among them confusion, fear and tension is a disservice. Though it is my position that due process was followed in the variation of the cost for the Tassia project from Sh3.6 billion to Sh5.03 billion, nobody blocked those complaining from approaching me or their colleagues on the NSSF Board with their objections and proposals for correction, if possible. I was shocked, therefore, when Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli erupted with allegations of massive fraud over this project. I have since suspended the tender to allow for a thorough review of the alleged malpractices in the awarding of the tender. It is not because I share the views of Cotu and Federation of Kenya Employers representatives Atwoli and Ms Jackline Mugo respectively, but because I want all doubts to be cleared so we can move on. In two or three weeks I have engaged all the concerned offices to investigate and bring out any fraud on NSSF projects. This is to enable us to clean up the mess and ensure we limit suspicions, infighting and eradicate mismanagement of public funds. Isn’t it ironical, as seen in the Tassia case, that there is a strong alliance between the employer and the workers’ representative over NSSF projects? Ordinarily, the two are expected to be on opposite sides. Their current marriage of convenience, and more so over contracts, should raise eyebrows. It is also very strange that the two are now pretending to be anti-corruption crusaders when they have been silent on the same NSSF board in the past when major rip-offs took place. I do not want to impute improper motives on them, but I want them to join me in straightening matters in this ministry and its departments for the good of our workers and our country. Mr Kambi is the Cabinet secretary for Labour (firstname.lastname@example.org). Police shouldn’t have brutalised matatu touts EXCESSIVE FORCE. Following riots by matatu touts on the Thika Superhighway during which they burnt old tyres, Joseph Mathenge says, he was disappointed about the high-handed reaction by police. Some officers, he claims, commandeered a route No 45 Githurai bus full of commuters who were returning home from work and ordered that it be driven to Kasarani Police Station. On January 30, they were all charged at the Milimani Law Courts with taking part in a riot and fined Sh10,000 or serve three months in jail in default. His contact is email@example.com. WHAT OF KISWAHILI? The proposal to teach primary school pupils in vernacular is further confirmation of the failure to promote the national language, Kiswahili, says Festus Ihwagi. Even more disappointing, he adds, is the fact that lots of funds are being poured into translating the Bible into local dialects instead of promoting literacy in Kiswahili. “Soon, the available books will become obsolete. The teachers should just admit that they can’t read or write in their mother tongues.” WE LOST THE PLOT. The much-touted migration from analogue to digital TV, Meg Kagenyi says, provides a challenge that university students of engineering, science and technology or local innovators could have taken advantage of by cashing into the ready market for set-top boxes. With the deadline set for next month, individuals or groups could have come up with these products and patented them. “It is a pity that they will be losing out to foreigners and yet there is such a lucrative domestic market.” Her contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a creative day, won’t you! E-mail: email@example.com or write to Watchman, POB 49010, Nairobi 00100. Fax 2213946. THE CUTTING EDGE BY THE WATCHMAN HURRAH, NO TAXES! Not all counties have gone for the nonsensical levies and taxes that are bound to make people’s lives even more miserable. And John Njuguna says Nyeri County deserves kudos in this respect. The county’s Finance Bill, he adds, does not propose increases in fees paid by hawkers, vegetable vendors and other small-scale traders. However, John is demanding better services, especially in garbage collection at Mumbi and other estates, which have been neglected since last year. WHAT STUDENT HOSTELS? Moi University public relations official Chris Okech was way off the mark when he stated that several stalled student hostels have recently been completed, says Jerry Omondi, who joined the university in 2011. According to Jerry, the best confirmation that there is, indeed, an acute shortage of accommodation on the main campus is the fact that many students are away for lack of accommodation. “There has been no change at the construction sites since I joined.” KEEP A DISTANCE, SIR. While he has often been quick to jump in and comment on issues being debated nationally, Allan Wangure believes President Uhuru Kenyatta’s aides are letting him down badly. He poses: “Why is he always eager to throw in a word? The most basic public relations principle is that the Big Man speaks last or not at all. We, his admirers, expect him to quietly sort out issues and not bemoan them like we do. The President needs a competent PR team,” he declares.
February 3rd 2014
February 5th 2014