Extensive investment in infrastructure without adequate measures to ensure socio-economic growth, is self-defeating.
It is a paradox that the government is struggling financially and at the same time launching grandiose projects that continues to increase the debt burden. Counties are struggling to pay suppliers and in the process killing many businesses. Hundreds of business people owed huge amounts of money by the devolved units have sent workers home and closed shop. Thousands of jobs have been lost and livelihoods dealt a huge blow.
Yet, the government launched the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to Naivasha and the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport-Westlands Express highway. The two projects will cost billions of shillings and the same overtaxed Kenyans will shoulder the bills. Extensive investment in infrastructure without adequate measures to ensure socio-economic growth, is self-defeating.
This would explain the recent protests in Mombasa against the SGR. Indeed, a majority of Coast residents feel that the new railway has killed their opportunities of growth. How unfortunate can this be?
A modern railway supposed to open up the region for more business and growth has been branded a killer of dreams. This means the ordinary man on the street has not felt the positive impact of the multi-billion shilling project. What could have been done to ensure Coast residents benefited from the SGR? What can be done to ease the suffering of Coast residents?
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There are also cries from many owners of informal business ventures. They claim they have been forced to shed off some jobs because of strict government policies. Harassing genuine, but struggling startups using the tax whip, is foolhardy. How about encouraging them to go about their business, but meet their tax obligations over a period of time? Shutting down businesses leads to job losses, a depressed citizenry and economy.
When these challenges are added to the long-running vice of corruption, growth becomes a mirage. Kenyans are angry at the depressive business environment and an economy that is only leading to rapid job losses. Something must be done urgently. You cannot continue digging when you find yourself in a hole.