Population-based revenue formula reinforces disparity, says MP

Wajir North MP Ibrahim Ahmed Abdisalan addressing the press over the controversial revenue sharing formula. North Eastern politicians are among the leaders protesting the touted population-based formula which they have described as unfair. [Jacob Ng'etich, Standard]

The controversial Senate Finance and Budget Committee on Revenue Formula will not only reinforce development disparities within regions but also threatens to create new ones, a member of parliament has warned.

Wajir North MP Ibrahim Ahmed Abdisalan said it was wrong to dismiss the demands by inhabitants of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) counties to an equitable share of national revenue by questioning what they bring to the table in regards to revenue generation.

" The Constitution thus sought to offer a solution to this highly emotive issue. Article 10 provides that the national values and principles of governance include equity, social justice and protection of the marginalised. Inequitable sharing of the national cake emerged as one of the core grievances among Agenda 4 items of the 2008 National Accord," said Abdisalan.

According to Abdisalan, the debate on a third new formula that senate has failed to pass seven times represents a radical shift on revenue allocation since it expands the parameters for the shareable revenue and revolves around skewed population-based formula than geography in determining the revenue allocation formula.

The contentious third basis formula

The proposed formula puts more weight on a county’s population thus counties with huge population sizes appear to be major beneficiaries whereas those with small population risk loss of billions of shillings.

Had the proposed formula by the Senate Finance and Budget Committee gone through, 19 counties drawn from the North, Coast and Lower Eastern counties would have lost a total of Sh42 billion while 28 counties would have gained.

Mandera County was set to lose Sh2 billion followed by Wajir, Kwale and Kilifi which would have lost Sh1.4 and 1.2 billion respectively.

The MP said huge swathes of land in Northern Kenya remain economically unexploited as a result of decades of state failure in accelerating infrastructure development. For example, 16,000 square kilometres of land in Marsabit remain underexploited despite being classified as high agricultural potential.

"From the vast expanse of North Eastern Kenya, whose importance the government has always underlined through military intervention whenever there is threat of external aggression, to the National parks in Southern Kenya, all regions add to the value and beauty of our country," said the MP.

He said with the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, Kenyan citizens from historically marginalised regions anticipated the emergence of new dawn characterised by equitable sharing of national revenue.

The lawmaker noted that for the first time since independence, the State had a legal obligation to not only address the legacy of inequitable development but to also implement revenue allocation measures that would tackle marginalisation and exclusion.

 "I would like to express my gratitude to all Senators who voted against the proposed formula, the revenue allocation was clearly unjust, ill-advised and inequitable," said Abdisalan.

The ‘one man-one shilling’ mantra he observed failed to give sufficient regard to factors contributing to the economic disparities within counties.

"The idea runs counter to the promise of equitable development. It is a step backwards to the warped ideology of Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965 which proposed that “development money should be invested where it will yield the largest increase in net output," said Abdisalan.

This approach he noted will clearly favour the development of areas having abundant natural resources, good land and rainfall, transport and power facilities, and people receptive to and active in development”.

He explained; "A reduced budgetary allocation would have rendered these counties unable to meet their development goals for the coming financial yea especially when most of these ASAL counties are still trying to build infrastructure after decades of marginalization." he said.