TO BORROW OR NOT BORROW

kenyan-president-uhuru-kenyatta-left-and-his-chinese-counterpart-xi-jinping-right-pose-for-photos-at-the-great-hall-of-the-people-in-beijing-in-2013 President Uhuru Kenyatta with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing

Several political leaders in this country have voiced their concern over State borrowing. Some have condemned the government over the issue. They want Kenya to borrow less. The official line is that there is room (and need) to borrow more.

Some leaders have even claimed that Kenya is the No.1 borrower in Africa. That obviously is not the case, but convincing the public after such careless utterances by leaders is an onerous task. If that is the aim of the said leaders, then the perception will thrive even though damaging and faulty both in substance and merit. Here are some facts to consider as the debate rages.

kenya-148713531 Nairobi City Skyline

For starters, Kenya is at number 13 in Africa and number 70 in the world at 52.80% of GDP. In Africa, Cape Verde stands at 123%, Egypt at 90%, Sudan at 79%, Zimbabwe at 77%, San Tome & Principe at 68%, Ghana at 67%, Mauritania at 67%, Morocco at 64%, Mauritius at 61.60%, Seychelles at 60%, Mozambique at 55.40%, Djibouti at 55.20%, Kenya 52.80%, Gambia 50.70%, South Africa 50.10%, Tunisia 47.50%, Lesotho 45.80%, Senegal 44.20%, CAR 41.83%, Tanzania 39.90%, Sierra Leone 37.65%, Angola 36.50%, Ivory Coast 36.41%, Niger 36.40%, Madagascar 34.90%,  Uganda 34.70%, and so on.

tokyo-bay-aqualine-tunnel Tokyo Bay Aqualine Tunnel

Apparently some of the biggest borrowers are also some of the most developed and biggest bilateral lenders, as witness the following list: Japan 229.20%, USA 104.17%, Canada 91.50%, Euro Area 90.70%, Greece 176.90%, Italy 132.70%, Belgium 106.00%, Singapore 104.70%, Spain 99.20%, France 96.10%, Ireland 93.80%, UK 89.20%, Jordan 89.00%, Germany 71.20%, India 67.20%, Brazil 66.23%, Netherlands 65.10%, Israel 64.80%, Pakistan 64.80%, Malaysia 54%, China 43.90%, Russia 17.70%.

unitedkingdom-road-network1 United Kingdom Road Network

It is clear from the above list that there is a relationship between borrowing and development. The West understands that very well. Japan is lending to the whole African continent. Their borrowing in relation to the GDP stands at a staggering 299%. And those who have been to Japan will tell you how superbly developed the country is. The figures above are clear evidence, if one is needed, that to grow and modernize a country has to borrow.

malaysia-1 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

The few countries in Africa which have borrowed much less than Kenya fall into two general categories: those developing at a much slower pace and those that have mineral wealth which supplied the necessary funds for development.  Gabon 34.10%, Namibia 34%, Republic of Congo 34%, Guinea Bissau 32.20%, Zambia 31%, Guinea 29.50%, Ethiopia 28.60%, Burkina Faso 28.30%, Rwanda 28%, Botswana 22.70%, Malawi 18%, Burundi 15.20%, Nigeria 11.50%. Algeria 8.76%, Equatorial Guinea 6.40%, Libya 6.10%.

sgr-10star Standard Gauge Railway under construction.

Critics of the government borrowing policies overestimate Kenya’s dependence on foreign investors while underestimating the foreigners’ need to invest. An example is China which clearly needs a strong Africa for economic reasons just as it needs the US and Europe for trade reasons. China depends on US consumers to purchase its products. The latter consumes Chinese imports equivalent to what the whole of Europe consumes. That makes China dependent on those economies. They want to improve African consumption of their products and the only viable way is to empower African economies. I do not think that is necessarily a bad thing.

kenya-stickig-to-spending-targets Nairobi by Night

It is unwise in my view, to blame government for not creating jobs while at the same time denigrating it for borrowing too much. We have to define what ‘too much’ means bearing in mind our thirst for development. A decline in economic activities cannot be remedied by reducing borrowing for infrastructural improvements. To reduce pressure on government resources to pay off debt can only be solved by empowering the tax payers and improving their capacity to pay more to the tax agency. That is what the Roads, Railways and Airports upgrading will do to the tax payer.  Instead of freezing employment it will create jobs and improve incomes. The more developed a country is, the more they are able to borrow at better terms. Japan seems to be borrowing at very low rates of interest for on-ward lending at much higher rates of interest to poorer countries, including Kenya and most of Africa.

shanghai-freeway Shanghai Freeway

I believe our main emphasis should be on monitoring the expenditures by the state, state institutions and agencies, counties, and the independent contractors and suppliers; and highlighting discrepancies where they exist and condemning proven graft. And finally, legislating in detail to curb spillage and empowering agencies that handle investigations.

pres-inspects-sgr-section President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects a section of the SGR.

If the figures above are faulty, please check with Tradingeconomics.com, my source.

GKthinji 2017

 

 

 

 

A Christmas Story Extract

christmas-australia

He looked up and about. He was still alone in his Prado. The day was still young, but pregnant. It had an imprint on him like no other. That dream early in the morning was not just another of those nocturnal journeys that people made within their own cocoons. It was God’s way of reaching out to him. Abandon luxury. Embrace the cloth. Go to the Mount of Olives. Repent and pray. Earn your anointing. Forty days and forty nights, no less, and you will become a true disciple of Jesus Christ. The serpent was but a reminder. When you look for a snake begin at your own feet. Or more appropriately begin in your own heart. The devil is never far away.

Pastor X pressed the reply button and wrote: ‘It’s no use. That woman will not budge. The church will be blessed in other ways. Thank you.’

He sent it.

After a while he wrote another message, this time to Brother Chris.

‘My dear Brother, The Lord has assigned me another mission. Hold fort until I should come back. Be blessed.’

He sent that, too.

Forty days and forty nights! No less. Forty days and forty nights of prayer and repentance! He turned the ignition key and pulled out of the parking lot, homeward bound. Half way to his house he started hearing strange sounds coming from the engine. He listened keenly. The sound was increasing in volume. Knock, knock, knock, knock or sounds to that effect. That was the sound of a developing engine knock. He slowed down and cautiously guided Prado to the Village Garage two kilometers from home. The manager agreed to have the damage assessed and repaired. He would bill the Church.

Taking the Bible with him, Pastor X hired a taxi cab and went home. From there he sent another message to Brother Chris, requesting him to make a follow-up of the repairs and to collect the Prado at completion. He added: ‘Please note that I have no intention of using Prado henceforth as my official or private car. It is for the Church to determine how and by whom it will be utilized in the future.’

Pastor X checked the time. Twelve o’clock, midday. Twenty four hours earlier, he had been a happy man of God at Church, delivering a moving sermon to an attentive, receptive congregation. He had been a man with a vision about to embark on a mission; an exuberant man with projects and programs to prosecute.

Now here he was, a spiritual wreck, needing an injection of a large dose of stamina to stay the course; to discover or chart anew, the path to salvation.

He had parted with Prado. Now he would part ways with more. Home Theatre, Flat screen HD TV, iPod, iPad and others. ‘These have to go,’ he promised. ‘Get real! The pursuit of luxury is the antithesis of the pursuit of salvation.’

He called H&T, the auctioneers and gave them directions.

It was a hot day. No trace of the remnants of the previous day’s storm in the sky. But the ground was still heavy with the load deposited that Sunday. They found him in prayer outside his house. They loaded the items he had discarded.

“Do you owe people money?” the clerk asked.

“Yes,” replied Pastor X.

“Are they mortgaged?”

“No. Why do you ask?”

“If they are mortgaged, we would like to see the relevant documents. Are they?”

“I said, no.”

“Ok. Check with us Friday afternoon. We have an auction on Wednesday and Friday mornings.”

“When it’s done, make out a cheque in the name of the Church and call this number. Talk to Brother Chris.”

He gave the man the details.

“You going somewhere?”

“Yes.”

“Far?”

“Yes.”

“I missed the service yesterday.”

“You are a member of my Church?”

“A new member, yes. My name is Lovemore Wakanaka.”

”I’m donating everything to the Church.”

“Wonderful! I’ll make sure we get the best deals for them. I’ll be conducting the auction.”

“Praise the Lord.”

He signed the mandate documents and the truck left. He closed the gate and went into the house. In the kitchen, he turned on the stove. The lights had just been restored. He warmed up some pasta and milk. That was his lunch.

His Mercedes Benz Sports car was next on the line. After a struggle it started and he drove into a car sales yard that specialized in Sports and high-range vehicles. They gave him a price that he instantly accepted. They paid a deposit. The balance was to be paid by cheque made out to the Church. Brother Chris was to collect it Friday. Pastor X signed the transfer forms and left.

For the second time that day he hired a taxi cab and went to the Country Bus Station, bought a ticket and returned home to pack. That night Pastor X travelled incognito two hundred and fifty kilometers out of town. The following day, in the company of a guide and two porters, he set off for Mt Inyangani, his local Mount of Olives, there to remain in prayer and meditation for forty days and forty nights.

Forty three days later, he reappeared. A much leaner, trim-haired but heavily bearded Pastor X, flanked by Brother Chris, stood by the entrance to the Church. As the congregation entered, members bowed and Pastor X- now anointed Apostle X – touched their foreheads in solemn greeting.

One of the members, Pricilla, moved closer and whispered something. She had countersigned the cheque! Apostle X gave her an incisive look and smiled. It was time to celebrate Christmas!

“Halleluyah!”

 

CHILDREN OF THE VALLEYS

As the hills yonder turned red from sunset rays

And darkness engulfed hillsides and the valleys

And the sweet sounds of birds

Rent the cool evening air

 

Our cows and sheep and goats

Hurried down the footpath

As though they were late

To a gathering of clans

Or one of their own.

 

And we the happy herds boys

Turned our ravenous thoughts

To bananas, yams and milk

And all available munch-able stuff

To calm our restless tummies.

 

And as the evening metamorphosed into night

And the stars of the sky reclaimed their might

We the famished children of the valleys

Approached the fireside with widening eyes

As the roughshod soldiers laid claim to all

And shot in the air to frighten us all.

 

And so we watched with pangs of hunger

Training our wrath and rancor and dismay

On other sons and daughters of Africa

Who for reasons best known to them

Or known only to their heartless handlers

Proclaimed themselves ‘defenders of our freedom’.

 

Voila! Children of the valleys of Africa

And of the cities and slums of Africa

You who gather in the evening breeze

After torrid days in the fields and streets

Only to return to a darkening sky

Sans food sans wear sans light. Voila!

Fidel Castro Photo Tribute

THE CUBAN LEADER WHO SURVIVED OVER 600 ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS

fidel-castroinparis1995 Fidel Castro in Paris 1995. He overthrew Dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959

fidel-castro-1960-in-control Firmly in Control 1960

 

fidel-castrounspeech1979Fidel Castro United Nations Speech 1979, New York, USA

fidel-castro1974 Fidel Castro in 1974

fidel-castro-the-prophet Fidel Castro the Prophet

 

fidel-castro-indira-gandhi1983  Fidel Castro with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India 1983

fidel-castrorevjessejackson1984 Fidel Castro 1984 with Rev. Jesse Jackson

fidel-castrosmokes1985 Fidel Castro Smokes 1985

fidel-castromikhailgorbachev1989 Fidel Castro with Mikhail Gorbachev 1989 before the fall of Berlin Wall

fidel-castro-sadam-hussein-raul-castro  Fidel Castro Saddam Hussein Raul Castro

fidel-castronelsonmandelainmatanzas1991Fidel Castro with Nelson Mandela 1991

fidel-castrowithpopejohnpaulii1998  Fidel Castro with Pope John Paul II 1998

fidel-castroinsantiagocuba-2002 Fidel Castro addresses comrades in Santiago, Cuba 2002

fidel-castro-y-wojciech-jaruzelski Fidel Castro with Wojciech Jaruzelski Leader of Poland

fidel-castrohugochavezmedalfacemedia2005Fidel Castro with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela 2005

fidel-castro-with-iranian-president-ahmadinejad-january-6-2012 Fidel Castro with Iranian President Ahmadinejad January 2012

fidel-castropuaseinspeechtostudents2006  Fidel Castro pauses in speech to students 2006

fidel-castroraulcastro2011  Fidel Castro to Raul Castro 2011

fidel-castro8jan2013  Fidel Castro January 2013

fidel-castrospeakstovladmirputin2014 Fidel Castro speaks to Vladmir Putin 2014

fidel-castroccpcongressapril2016  Fidel Castro bids goodbye to Communist Party Congress April 2016

fidel-castrograntshugochavezmedal2006That is the man who ruled Cuba for almost 50 years outlasting 9 US Presidents.

 

 

 

 

Shakespeare, Trump, and radical experiments of self-government: The Winter’s Tale

Nostalgic thoughts on Shakespeare. I would have added Coriolanus to the list of his characters who, upon reflection, would have wondered how they got there. Self-searching.

Shakespeare Confidential

I’ve been preoccupied with two people this year. The first, of course, is William Shakespeare. The other, alack, is Donald Trump.

I’ve avoided writing about the latter. It’s not that I don’t see the man everywhere in Shakespeare’s plays. I see him in Richard III’s Machiavellian machinations. In Richard II’s incompetence, overreach, and rashness. I see him in Iago’s Janus-faced manipulations. In Timon of Athen’s extreme egotism. In the glib sexual presumption of Falstaff as he appears in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

It’s that I’ve wanted to keep the two separated. Maybe because I’ve felt the connections were too pat, that discussing today’s politics would be such an obvious, unoriginal move. Maybe because I haven’t wanted to talk about him – because he’s all we ever talk about anymore.

You don’t get to ruin Shakespeare, too, damnit.

Or maybe it’s because, in spite of my efforts to make…

View original post 1,208 more words

What Did The People Decide?

cart-06-11-2016 As depicted in our Media

Where I come from (and it’s not Mars) that is the question that would be on the lips of the voters and non-voters alike. The reason for the anxiety is based on our definition of democracy. When we were fighting dictator Moi in 1992, the slogan was, Let the People Decide. We wanted universal suffrage in a free and democratic election process that would usher in a democratic result.

thats_pretty_sad_donald_trump-carson-2015

In the process of the struggle, we forgot to define what we meant by democratic result. We were shocked beyond belief when Moi won the election by garnering 34% of the vote in a crowded field. It meant that 66% of the voters had rejected him.

clinton-hillary

The recent election in the US resulted in Hillary Clinton winning 60,467,245 votes and Donald Trump getting 60,071,650 votes. In other words Clinton beat Trump by 395,595 votes if one goes by the true definition of one-voter one-vote without having to designate any vote as having more value than another.

bo-on-the-line-to-trump-09-11-2016

But we then learnt that American democracy is a contrived system. It does not treat all votes as equal. Applying the rules of the US system Clinton’s votes translated into 232 delegates while Trumps votes translated to 290 delegates. It is only in America that logic can be cobbled to produce that result.

republican-presidential-candidates

We learnt also that Trump’s votes translated into 47.4% of the total votes cast while Clinton’s votes constituted 47.7% of the total. That means the two contestants garnered 95.1% of the vote and 4.9% went to Third Parties. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson gained over 3% of the popular vote, and the Green party’s Jill Stein got 1%. Both are facing a major flack for it. In essence it means that 52.6% of the voters rejected Trump. Yet he is now the winner. The US will be governed by a President who got less than 50% of the vote. It mirrors what happened in Kenya in 1992 and 1997. Is that a democratic outcome?

obama-trump1  Donald Trump with Barack Obama

According to our current constitution- which requires the winner to get 50%+1 of the total, that election would not have produced a winner. We would have been forced to go for a run-off between Trump and Clinton, excluding all the Third Party candidates who together garnered over 5 million votes. The result would have resulted in either Trump or Clinton clinching the threshold of 50%+1 of the votes cast. That is what our democracy demands and that is how we would have achieved it by treating each vote equally.

bo-and-mo-happy

In 2008 Barack Obama had 365 delegates to John McCain’s 173 delegates. He had 69,498,416 votes to McCain’s 59,948,323 votes. In 2012 he had 50.1% of the total votes cast. The Third Party candidates got just 1.4%.

republican_change_map_976

We learnt something in addition. The following ten States, that is, California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Georgia and North Carolina, produce between them 246 delegates of the 270 required to win. The other 40 States have 292 delegates between them.

obamakenyattamichelle

In Kenya it is now called the tyranny of numbers. The US appears to have perfected the art of the tyranny of numbers and cast it in stone. If your State is small in terms of population it remains that way for ever.  That is the unseen side of American ‘democracy.’ On this one our democracy and American democracy are poles apart.

the-united-states-of-america-map

One way to understand the US system is by realizing that it is trying to solve a problem for a huge, now yuuge, country. 50 States is not like our 47 counties. Going by the controversies that we usually have at the end of a general election, it is, perhaps, to their credit that they contrived a system that works for them and produces quick uncontested results.

Is that what the people decided?

cartoon10-11-2016 Munene Cartoons

 

Were I a poet I would put it thus:    In Wisconsin I was trumped      I turned to Ohio and Iowa     And there again got trumped     Finding no joy in Pennsylvania    I fled to Florida in search of solace    But was no better off than before    Everywhere I went I was trumped         Now here I am humble before him      For, I fear, wherever I go in the US     They will all be singing Donald Trump!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Kicked Smoking

cigarette2

I had been a reluctant smoker for quite some time. I had been lured into the smoking club by friends at AHS. The smoking den was a secret place called the Depression. I do not know whether it still exists. A smart and curious prefect saw smoke rising above the depression and decided to get close. We were caught red-handed. We were punished after a fashion after serious pleas of innocence. The butts had either been swallowed or floated away into the air.

The next time I was caught was in Mombasa. We were there in Dec for the Marine Biology Club Tour. The master in charge was a Super Six Teacher- meaning that he was waiting to enter the Nairobi University. He made a report but was not there when we had to defend ourselves before the H/M.

mombasa-081

My defence was that I had merely been holding it for our friend and benefactor who was buying us cakes and soda at the counter. That was not sufficient defence because, according to convention, even the holding of a cigarette was a crime. I was dealt with perpendicularly. I got my three canes in the usual region of my anatomy.

That was the time I decided never again while I was a secondary school student.

After Form VI and a stint at the East Africa Industries’ (Unilever) newly created Marketing Research segment, I decided to renew my courtship with the cigarette. Why not, I asked myself. I had the money and the freedom. There were no masters or prefects watching behind every corner. So I backslid into the vice. Then of course it was the in-thing to do. The hippie movement was on to aid us in that direction and we were eager to do something to help spread the illicit Gospel.

kenya-in-africa

By then I was a rich student as far as riches for students went. The Boom aside, I was earning money from researching answers to pupils’ questions on the Schools Broadcasting Service programme Post Box. I got paid Kes60 for answering the questions and Kes 50 for reading the answers over VOK SBS.

On top of that I was acting both at the National Theatre but also for the VOK’s Local Drama on TV. So I could afford to go places ‘the smooth way.’ I was comfortably doing two packets a day and three on occasion.

Then came my birthday in November. Some friends who were studying catering at the Kenya Polytechnic assisted me to get liquor and wine for my guests. Some other friends managed to sneak cannabis sativa into the room and that had an electrifying effect. All lights went out. I mean we all got drunk beyond repair. We could not see our way to the next room. We had a whale of a time.

beer1

That was the day when I had my first puff of pot. I was totally unaffected by this structural catastrophe because all I had to do was lie back on my bed and start dreaming of the Niagara Falls; which I did. The next morning, and I mean around ten in the morning, I tried to brush my teeth with all four brands at our disposal to no avail.

Whilst at East Africa Industries I had taken part in a Brand Test program and had interviewed two British Airways air hostesses in Riverside, Nairobi. I wanted to know which tooth paste each of them used. Their answer was four brands. I asked why. They said every brand of tooth paste lacked something or other. To ensure that you are missing nothing, either rotate or use all the available brands alternately, they had advised.

signal            close-up                pepsodent               colgate

Using that logic (and I still do) I had bought Colgate and Pepsodent and my roommate had bought (at my suggestion) Signal and Close-up. Those are the four brands that failed to remove the awful taste in my mouth after the Birthday Party of the Year. It was then that I decided to SMOKE NO MORE.

I had a terrible hangover. My roommate had a worse one. But we had a lecture to attend at 10.30am. And attend we did. But 30 or so minutes into the lecture by Professor Bailey on Constitutional Law, we looked at one another, gave a signal, gathered our papers, stood and walked or staggered out. We headed for the Sanatorium.

cigarette-stubs1               smoking-pipe

The Medical guys there examined us, gave me eight types of tablets and … and gave my friend eleven and insisted that we take them there and then. They had the water in the gallon just in case we needed that much. We took the concoction and staggered back to a friends room in Hall 9 to sleep it off as directed. Luckily for us this was a Friday and we sure thanked God that it was so. We had two full days to recover, with the help of liquor since that had not been ruled out. Late that Friday evening and somewhere nearer the School of Law, I took one beer and smoked one cigarette. The following day I took one beer and smoked half a cigarette. That Sunday I took two beers without smoking a cigarette. I embarked on improving the intake of alcohol without cigarettes. Over forty years later, I can say without fear of contradiction that I have smoked a maximum of ten cigarettes since I took that great step. I can also confirm that all those ten or so cigarettes were taken one Christmas holiday in the mid-1980s.

tobacco-in-kenya       Tobacco farming in Kenya

But let me briefly tell you what had become of me during those twelve months of heavy smoking. I had developed a habit to go with it. It had become natural to light up when you met a friend. If you had not lit one before, you did it then. You lit and offered your friend a cigarette. We had plenty of time those days. I know because when you said goodbye you lit another one. You had talked that long. Or you had smoked that fast.

cigarette-stubs2

When you had to think of something you lit a cigarette to aid your thinking faculties. When you entered a bar- any bar, you lit a cigarette. When you left you lit. You never drank your Pilsner beer – the lion-hearted beer, or any other beer without a fitting companion- a permanent continuous aid to a successful imbibing of your preferred poison. Mark you, one such as you, did not enter a restaurant or tea room except the Central Catering Unit of the University. What on earth would you be doing there? Your friends knew it, your girl friends knew it. It was universal; unless you had irreparably fallen in love with a teetotaller that was also allergic to the fumes from a brewery.

likoni-mombasa           Likoni Ferry Mombasa

But if you were misled by your shoe or otherwise made the mistake of entering such an abominable place, you took the precaution of lighting a cigarette to help you find your bearing. If your eyes set sight on a beauty you lit a cigarette. If you did not see her, the inevitable conclusion was that she was not a beauty. You lit a cigarette. If you won the lottery, even if it was a very modest sum, you lit a cigarette. If you lost, you lit a puff. The potential for lighting was sky high. And a cig never let you down. Or so you mistakenly believed.

cigarette3

We did not watch football those days. Not the way people nowadays pretend to be watching when in actual fact they are busy gambling. Or is it betting? We went to movies. Westerns were in vogue. So were certain love flicks. Every time a cowboy lit a cigarette, you lit a cigarette. One had to smoke before entering a lecture to engage in brain works. Occasionally one had to interrupt the lecture in order to get reinforcements. On that famous day my friend and I were repaired but we were not healed. It took a week or two to take the poison out of the system. Then real trouble started. What to do with my hands? What to do when meeting friends? When leaving them? When thinking? When not thinking? Before sleeping? Upon waking? When pausing? When thinking of what to say? It was a nightmare!

ring-of-fire01-09-2016                 Ring of Fire

Moreover, my friends kept on urging me to stop pretending to be seriously thinking of stopping smoking for good. They kept offering cigarettes and I kept rebuffing the temptation to restart. It was only after three or four months that I felt comfortable with my new status of a drinking but non-smoking young man. In other words, I became a passive smoker because I was in the company of smokers often.  Then we did not know the dangers of passive smoking; but as time went on I began to be selective about my association with smokers.

no-smoking-smoking       you-can-quit-smoking

In December 1985 a friend of mine who was then working with BAT Kenya sent me a Christmas present in the form of a 25-packet parcel of 555 by State Express. I gave them all away but in the process I must have smoked five or so cigarettes. Those were the last that I smoked. My friend had not known that I had kicked the habit.

no-smoking                                          All images from Google