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The East African : Aug 11th 2014
24 The EastAfrican OPINION AUGUST 9-15,2014 If budgeting is to be a dialogue, we need to know why and when to talk Up to a point, this is a pretty good Uasin Gishu Assembly’s job was to move things around within the sector but without changing the totals.” Jason Lakin A ccording to local dailies, the governor of Kenya’s Uasin Gishu County met with local farmers recently. Just weeks after the county’s budget was approved, the farmers grumbled that the allocation for agriculture was too small. The governor agreed and said this would be remedied in a supplementary budget. The first question we should ask is whether the governor did initially propose more funding for the sector than what was approved by the Assembly. Reviewing the County Assembly Budget Committee report, it appears that the Assembly did reduce the governor’s proposed budget for agriculture from Ksh575 million to Ksh509 million. According to the report, the Committee, after consultation, felt that some of the priorities in the agriculture budget were misplaced, including the government’s planned milling plant construction at Moiben. story. It appears to be about a functional county budget process. The governor proposes, the Assembly consults with the public and makes amendments. The process is working. Except that, on closer inspection, it isn’t. The governor’s budget proposal isn’t the moment for the Assembly to determine overall allocations to a sector. That is supposed to happen earlier, in March, when the County Fiscal Strategy Paper is tabled. When the budget comes about, the Assembly’s job is to move things around within the sector but without changing the totals. If they didn’t want to see a mill at Moiben, they should have reallocated the funds for that (Ksh50 million, according to the report) to another agriculture project. Instead, they slashed the agricul- ture budget. As a result, farmers who opposed the mill, but still wanted money for agriculture, were disappointed. It isn’t clear if the farmers also complained to the Assembly (it was their fault, after all, not the governor’s). But Ksh30 million of the Ksh50 million for the mill was left for another project in “Moiben (to decide the project),” meaning that money was left to a geographical area, not to a sector. Similarly, Ksh90 million was inserted for “ward projects” (no sector). At a national budget event in April, Kenyan MPs complained vociferously that there was “too much” public participation in Kenya these days. But this story reminds us that the problem isn’t too much participation, but too little knowledge of why and when we are meant to participate. The budget process in Kenya is meant to be a dialogue. Like most dialogues, it is productive when people can agree on certain things and then move on to other issues. That is what the timelines in the law were intended to do. The point of the Kenyan system is to have different discussions at different moments. First we agree on the relative importance of sectors like agriculture in March (and the public weighs in). Having agreed, we move on to discuss how to spend the money within the sectors in May (and again the public weighs in). This structured dialogue is intended to make it easier to prioritise by doing things in steps. The structure doesn’t work if the government doesn’t follow it, though. And that is what happened in Uasin Gishu. The Assembly didn’t approve sector ceilings in March, because they didn’t know they were supposed to and the governor didn’t present any. So in May, the Assembly had to revisit both the overall allocations to each sector and the priorities within each sector. In trying to do too much at once, the Assembly only heard part of what the public had to say. No, the public didn’t want the mill, but they probably still wanted that money to go to agriculture. Had this been properly discussed in March, that would have been clear. Instead, the agriculture budget was cut. True, the Assembly says in its report that it preferred to spend the money for the mill on subsidising farm inputs, but the numbers in the report don’t bear that out. Like the reports produced by many Assemblies (including the National), the Uasin Gishu report’s narrative doesn’t correspond to the allocations, undermining the budget dialogue. The governor now says he will compensate for these failings with a supplementary budget. But a supplementary budget isn’t designed to substitute for months of debate that should inform the budget in the first place. If the governor didn’t persuade the Assembly to accept his agricultural budget a few weeks ago, how does he propose to persuade them now? And if the Assembly has already allocated the money to geographically targeted projects it thinks are more worthwhile than sec- A supplementary budget as now proposed by the governor should be used to deal with unforeseen events, not to re-enact lost battles tor programmes, why should it back down over a supplementary budget? A supplementary budget should be used to deal with unforeseen events, not to re-enact lost battles. A budget dialogue has started at county level, but we are still learning how and when to talk to each other properly. Jason Lakin is a senio≥ p≥og≥amme o∞ce≥ and ≥esea≥ch fellow at the Inte≥national Budget Pa≥tne≥ship. Email: email@example.com Uganda’s elites want to mode≥nise by abolishing the poo≥ E id-ul-Fitr day in Kampala saw the start of mass evictions of the considerable informal settlements that had built up on the narrow tracts alongside the railway line that bisects the city from east to west and beyond. The operation was carried out by city council authorities protected by deployments of Uganda’s police and military forces. Technically, the line, and the land on either side of it, belongs to the state-owned Uganda Railways Corporation. Decades of an opaque privatisation process have resulted in massive reallocations of not just the right to manage the railway service, but also ownership of valuable plots of its land elsewhere in the city and far beyond. The land transfers in particular have al- ready begun to change the city landscape, as massive clearances of former railway workers’ residences and schools have left wide open spaces whose new owners are mentioned only in hushed whispers. Kampala is not so much overpopulated as it is congested — in the sense that it has not yet found a way to sustainably deliver the expected services and amenities. With the general demographic largely made up of what are basically displaced rural peasants, as well as third or fourth generation chronically poor families and communities, it is also unclear where the revenues to organise such services would come from. This means that change is both necessary, and has been a long time coming. time. The second was the decade-plus suppres- Their mistake is to view our urban poor as a stubborn weed, devoid of history and context.” Kalundi Se≥umaga The problem with tackling this challenge, however, is the risks that will come with it as long as policy-making on urbanisation remains effectively in the hands of an aspirational elite, who frankly do not seem to have made the distinction between abolishing poverty and physically abolishing poor people themselves. Their mistake is to view our urban poor as a nuisance that sprouted from nowhere like a stubborn weed, devoid of history and context. The gun is the preferred method of chang- ing a Uganda government. Up until the 1979 fall of the Idi Amin regime, this meant armies manoeuvring through the strategic urban spaces and connecting routes. While this did create its own damage, it was not as farreaching as the last two significant wars. The 1981-1986 war was the first in which the elite factions actually based themselves in the countryside for substantial periods of sion of the armed insurgency in northern and northeastern Uganda where a substantial portion of the rural population was effectively removed from the countryside and lived in displacement camps for the next two decades, while the armed factions — one of them having by this time become the government — faced off. The cumulative effect of these conflicts, designed and led by the elite, has been the physical displacement of thousands of families, the permanent loss of autonomous, selfreplicating agricultural skills, and a shrinking of rural output. The IMF/World Bank economic policies that the ruling National Resistance Movement party then energetically imposed on the country only cemented the breakdown, with the removal of state protections to the rural economy. This has led to a degenerate urbanisation process. Where the rural to urban migrations of the European industrial revolution tended to be of people from lands they had lost to workplaces in the very industries that had supplanted them, there has been no parallel rooting of new industries to take up the slack here. Instead, migration has been from a situation of inactivity to one of crisis However, at policy level, the squalor and sometimes near chaos of the city is associated only with the urban poor. The new city authority sees the ramshackle economy of ki- osks, hawkers and street stalls as an obstacle to its modernisation plans. Before this latest railway line clearance, there have been other violent evictions. One cannot rule out the argument that this is part of a wider regime-crony grab of the many spaces occupied by the poor, for which the powerful have “better” uses. The support of the wider elite for all this is being seduced through the promise of modern amenities like a passenger rail system. But as the late social campaigner Prof Nabudere put it: “Any notion of modernisation or progress that does not take into account people’s experiences and culture is tantamount to genocide.” It is hard to see how the new promised in- frastructure will be financed without having to resort to further donor-bothering and the incurring of public debt. What may appear like “progress,” may in fact become the policy equivalent of a young man dumping his poorer long-time girlfriend and then borrowing money so as to impress a new bride with a flashy wedding. It is also hard to see where the now dis- placed Africans are expected to migrate, and what to live on once they get there. Unfortunately, given the presidential sup- pression of the elected city administration headed by the popular and well-meaning but frankly historically inept opposition Democratic Party, necessary political discussions seem as stranded as the evicted poor.
Aug 4th 2014
Aug 18th 2014