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The East African : June 16th 2014
20 The EastAfrican OPINION JUNE 14-20,2014 PUBLISHED WEEKLY BY THE NATION MEDIA GROUP Budgets send st≥ong signals on integ≥ation THE EMPHASIS on increased infrastructure spending highlighted in budget proposals for 2014/15 among East African states is a boon for regional economic integration. Having more than eight per cent of budgeted resources allocated to the works and transport sectors in most of the partner states, raises hopes of efficient and durable roads among traders, long frustrated by quality imbalances in the region’s road network. Future maintenance costs and achieving longer life spans for new roads, however, still pose a big challenge to local authorities, especially those with limited planning capacity. Uganda’s endorsement of the 1.5 per cent im- port levy on selected imported goods for raising funds to finance the standard gauge railway appears a step in the right direction. The recovery experienced in imports across the region during the current financial year has raised prospects of generating huge monies from this tax measure. But the underlying cost-benefit analysis ought to be explained further to avoid creating a white elephant. Disagreements between Kenya government of- ficials and some local traders over the legality and impact of this levy on trade flows need to be guided by the hard realities of government borrowing. Any government that borrows funds at will from the markets eventually denies businesses cheap credit and saves little for future generations. Tax relief granted to wheat imports by Rwanda and Tanzania will help curb food price inflation in coming months. While Kigali has zero rated duty on wheat, Tanzania has prolonged the suspension of a 10 per cent duty on wheat grain. Ukraine’s internal conflict portends badly for the global wheat market, with a sizeable supply accounted for by the troubled European nation. Moves to forestall likely shocks in wheat prices will ease economic pressures on several households in the region. The imposition of a capital gains tax on transactions in Kenya’s oil and gas sector offers a new lease of life for Uganda’s oil and gas industry. Whereas enforcement of capital gains tax on such transactions had scared away some contractors from Uganda’s oil and gas industry in the recent past, the Kenyan move leaves them with no escape option. Ahead of commercial production expected in 2018, this decision could help reverse the effect of damaging policy actions in the past and stimulate further investment flows. Tanzania’s move to raise the presumptive tax rate from two per cent to four per cent could provide its neighbours useful lessons in taxing the large and slippery informal sector. The measure comes with an increase in the flat levy for businesses that do not keep accounting records — a stronger warning to small businesses reluctant to document their transactions. A major gap in the region, however, is the failure to harmonise excise duty. Kenya has announced it will table an Excise Bill in parliament after it goes through public participation, in line with efforts being witnessed in the other East African countries. As experts have pointed out, this should present an opportunity for all five countries to formulate a regional Excise Management Act. A PUBLICATION OF THE NATION MEDIA GROUP LINUS GITAHI: Chief Executive Officer JOSEPH ODINDO: 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 Refereeing a World Cup match is therefore a oncein-a-lifetime opportunity for African referees. ” Cha≥les Onyango-Obbo A t the end of May, the New York Times reported that, during World Cup 2010 in South Africa, according to a confidential report by FIFA, referee Ibrahim Chaibou “ate” money to rig a match. Chaibou, went the report, was paid by a “notorious match-rigging” syndicate based in Singapore. He was so flush with dollars, when he banked $100,000 of it in a small South African branch, a bank employee was so blown How can a man go to referee at the World Cup watched by billions, and then go back home empty-handed? away he gave Chaibou a gift of commemorative coins bearing the likeness of Nelson Mandela. East Africans will not miss the irony that a man called Chaibou drank some “chai” to fix a match, but his story says something more intriguing about Africa — especially its referees and officials — and the World Cup. None of the five African teams in the ongoing World Cup in Brazil will get to Why Blatte≥, Museveni a≥e b≥othe≥s unde≥ the skin the finals, to be realistic. However, the brilliant individual African players are likely to get offers worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to play for a top European or Chinese club. For the African referees, though, nothing will change. They will go back home to referee in poorly funded domestic leagues, and get a pittance for their work — if they get paid at all. Refereeing a World Cup match is therefore a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them. It is the biggest pay season of their lives. Not only do they have to make enough money from it to complete the small house they are building, but the few games they will officiate must also pay their pension. Then along comes a Singaporean match-fixer bearing a $100,000 bribe. Go figure. I guess the same thing happens with our football federation officials. There are allegations that several of them lined their pockets to vote for the World Cup to be held in Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. One of those typical Sepp Blatter-engineered sham Fifa investigations into the allegations is under way. Blatter is much like an African au- tocrat and president for life. Now 78, he said last week he will seek another term in elections next year, although in 2011 he said it would be his last shot at the Fifa presidency. That argument helped him defeat proposals for term limits. Blatter, who has been in the job since 1998, must surely be a student of presidents like Uganda’s worthy Yoweri Museveni. Western federations hate Blatter, but with the vote of the African and Asian federations, he will probably win again. But, like all good politicians, he must give his constituents something for their vote. Probably turning a blind eye to vote-selling for World Cup hosting rights is one of his rewards to “his people.” So there you have it. Most African referees come from countries where their own corrupt leaders set a bad example. They are hired to referee matches by an organisation tainted by corruption and led by a strongman who runs it pretty much like their Big Men back home. What should we expect? Besides, how can a man go to referee at the World Cup watched by billions of people in the world, and then go back home empty-handed? His children will not eat his whistle, and his wife — or better, mistress — will not wear his yellow shirt and black referee’s shorts. Cha≥les Onyango-Obbo is is the edito≥ of Mail & Gua≥dian Af≥ica (mgaf≥ica.com). Twitte≥:cobbo3 Sex and the county: Devolution of idiocy J ust over a week ago, Nairobi’s County Assembly voted to remove sex workers from the city centre. It is not like Nairobi doesn’t have real problems to deal with. Security, for example, even though that is technically the remit of the national government. “Ordinary” crime, including sexual crimes. Homelessness and the vulnerability of those who are homeless to extortion and violence, including sexual extortion and violence. Poverty, poverty, poverty — with every middle- and upper-income neighbourhood bounded by lower-income neighbourhoods. In which homes vary from sheets of plastic to ramshackle hovels for which extortionate rents are extracted. Whose residents pay up to ten times more than their affluent neighbours for everything from food to basic services, like siphoned-off power and water. Because they cannot afford to buy food in bulk. And because there is such low service provision. But real problems were, apparently, deemed too daunting to broach. Problems of “morality” were the next best option. Whose morality, we might ask? Not, of course, the morality of demand — men being the predominant purchasers of sexual services, from both men and women. But the morality of supply — women and men, the latter who’ve stepped out of their heteronormative and patriarchal roles. The debate meandered into “solu- tions.” Some suggested that what was needed were designated areas and buildings from which sex workers could operate. The implication being that the problem was not sex work, per se, but unemployment and the fact that it was being solicited in the open. Others suggested the solution was polygamy, for all sex workers to simply get married. The implication being that the problem was the lack of men with whom to have more legitimate and socially sanctioned relationships. To be fair, some of the County Assembly members appear to have re- A whole lot of sex is transactional. A whole lot of relationships are transactional. We give to get. sisted. Some claimed that sex work contributed to Nairobi’s 24-hour economy. Literally. Others noted the service sex work renders to all those poor married men who are nagged interminably in their homes. The implication being that sex workers serve the function of old-school courtesans, concubines and mistresses. It was laughable really. Except that it wasn’t and isn’t. In terms of the real life effects that vote is likely to have already had on sex workers in the It is not like Nairobi doesn’t have real problems to deal with.” L. Muthoni Wanyeki Central Business District. Who are already vulnerable to extortion and violence from city askaris and the regular police. Let’s be honest. A whole lot of sex is transactional. A whole lot of relationships are transactional. Many marriages are transactional. We give to get. And either we’ve become far more mercenary as a society than we used to be. Or just far more open about our mercenary behaviour than we used to be. We glorify and romanticise trans- actional behaviour. The university students who manage their bills and lifestyles with the help of willing and much older men. The hunt for expatriates, all assumed to have pockets overflowing with dollars. And then the marriages. The never-ending stories of break-ups and expectations and tensions related to the presence — or lack thereof — of economic support. It’s a joke. Except that it isn’t. L. Muthoni Wanyeki is Amnesty Inte≥national’s ≥egional di≥ecto≥ fo≥ East Af≥ica. This column is w≥itten in he≥ pe≥sonal capacity.
June 9th 2014
June 23rd 2014