Kenya, a Working or Speaking Nation?

Of president Kibaki’s 48th Madaraka day Speech.
The reason I like listening to president Kibaki speak, and especially on development issues is because he has a deep economics background and so I keep telling myself that his isn’t just a written speech but an intellectual sharing on the economic situation in Kenya and in the world at large.
I was just about to leave the supermarket today at around 12.40pm when a statement in the president’s speech caught my ear and I decided to stay in and listen to the rest of his speech.
He, definitely addressed different issues affecting the country and in my opinion, most of them lie within the eight areas addressed in the millennium development goals ’M.D.G ‘s namely education, healthcare, poverty, H.I.V among other issues.
Of great interest to me were the issues of the rising cost of living, the escalating food and fuel prices and youth unemployment.
On the escalating fuel prices, he said that the government is trying to curb this by zero rating the tax on paraffin and reducing the tax on diesel which in the short term is a good plan. The long term measures on the same include encouraging more investors to venture into the fuel market to increase competition and hence reduce monopoly and its effects. This, to me is a good move if the price wars in the communications industry are anything to go by. Use of alternative sources of power like geothermal, solar and wind power and having oil reserves are also great measures if they are to be implemented.
On food and their prices, the president said that the government was working towards establishing a grain reserve that has a capacity to store 8 million bags of maize which to me is an over-delayed measure since this was to be expected with the global climate changes, draught predictions and the ever increasing population.
Boosting of agriculture was another method that the government planned to use to solve the food situation in the country. The president mentioned that they would set aside 3.8 billion Kenyan shillings for purchase of fertilizers and 4 million for buying seeds, also the government will help farmers put up fishponds to increase diversity in productivity. Another important mention was that Kenya as a country would no longer depend on rain fed agriculture but that we would take up irrigation and dam construction so as not to be inconvenienced during draught seasons.

On youth unemployment, the president mentioned that he was fully aware that this was a serious issue that was being addressed through measures like the kazi kwa vijana initiative and the development funds set aside for youth, the president then commended the youth who over the years had taken the initiative to create employment not only for themselves but for others by beginning their own businesses. He specifically recognized the boda boda people who provide the much needed transport in areas that are inaccessible to other forms of transport.

On matters to do with the constitution, the president said that the government is fully committed to its implementation and that relevant parties should go ahead and begin drafting bills which he would make sure are discussed by parliament in the shortest time possible. However, with the discussions on dress code, namely ‘earrings’ and hotel expenses for some cabinet ministers dominating the floor of the house in the very recent past, I am not too sure what the term ’shortest time possible’ is supposed to mean.
On health, the president said that the country now has 7,260 public health facilities as compared to the approximately 1,500 we had in 2007 and this was because of the constituency development fund and the economic development fund issued by the government, this in all honesty, is a very big plus to the Kibaki government. The efforts to curb transmission of the H.I.V virus have been hugely successful and currently, 460,000 people infected with the virus are able to access treatment.
The president concluded his speech by reminding Kenyans that eight years back, he had made a plea for us to turn Kenya into a working nation and he was pleased that as a country, we had heeded the call and still are working towards the same.
In conclusion, Kenya experienced an economic growth of 5.6% in 2010.Considering the global economic crisis and the situation at the time, I want to believe that as a country, we are headed in the right direction.
However, for us to realize the vision 2030, we need an annual economic growth rate of 10% .Anyone of us who has had a chance to be involved in strategic plan implementation is aware that speech and final presentations are just a tip of the iceberg and stirring real change and implementing a work plan requires more action than words, like one lovelorn musician said in his song ’More than words, ‘is all we have to do to make it right’ as a country.

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