Since 1902

Kenyans are suffering because of corruption, not economic model

Grieving family pushing a cart through a muddy section, Nyandarua, 2019. [John Githinji, Standard]

Normally, this column is written on Friday evening, and submitted to the editor yesterday, that is Saturday.

This week, this column was penned on Thursday, to be submitted on Friday, and even then, the editor was not amused. By and large, it is not easy to make editors happy, especially my editor, because they operate on deadlines which they can change at will.

Generally though, they are good people, who, unlike politicians, only kill stories, not dreams. But I digress.

I penned this column early because I did not want the speeches and promises that were to be made at Kasarani on Friday to get in the way of a narrative about economic models being peddled around without any mention of the biggest problem.

In a sentence, I did not want to get confused, after all, I am a Kenyan, and politicians love getting us all confused with slogans and promises, and we believe them.

For months, all the talk by politicians has been about Kenya’s economy, and each one of them says they will turn it around. Nothing new. That has been the empty talk for ages, or during every election cycle. And since Kenya is ever on election mode, the empty talk never ends.

Outright lies

Sadly, the people who talk about turning the economy around are the ones who plunder it, before, during and after the speeches. They spend tens of millions of taxpayers’ money to visit the speaking venues, and get back to their homes and offices, happy that they found bunches of numskulls who swallowed their lies.

Ironically, their talk about turning the economy around is supported by economists they have appointed to help them sell to the easily excitable Kenyans the narrative that numbers in the economy are not adding up but will do so when they are in power.

Paleolithic period economic theories are thrown at desperate Kenyans yet the real reason why the people are suffering is swept under Persian rugs, in their offices and official residences, many a time bought using taxpayers’ money. There is virtually no truth in saying that what Kenya needs is a new economic model because what has been there has never worked.

The people who say this are not poor. They are wealthy and made their money, legally or through underhand deals, under the same economic model they claim has failed. They know that the model has failed to spread the wealth because of corruption perpetuated by them, and they want to continue benefiting from it, so they come with a spin that the problem is the economic model.

Economic theories

These economic theories are good for high-level talks in ivory towers and can only make sense to Kenyans when the outcome trickles down. But that does not happen because what is meant for the people is captured, nay, stolen, by politicians midway.

Kenyans can be sold numerous economic models and given several promises, but the number of high profile anti-corruption and economic crimes cases in courts is proof that no model will work unless politicians stop stealing from public coffers or helping their friends and relatives cut corners and fatten their bank accounts. As of November 3, 2021, there were 14 high profile anti-corruption and economic crimes cases registered in courts and at different levels of determination.

The amounts involved vary, with the largest being Sh24 billion (case number ACC/20/2019) and the lowest is Sh8 million (case number ACC/23/2018) but the total sum in all the cases is a mind-boggling Sh51 billion. All these cases do not directly involve politicians, but the accused are their cronies or appointees in the civil service and case number ACC/20/2019 involving Sh24 billion was vehemently defended by politicians saying much less than that amount went down the drains of Arror and Kimwarer dams.

These cases are being handled by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and were registered in courts between 2013 and 2019. It is safe to say that there are many scams yet to be detected or cases still under investigation.

Of course, there were other scams and corruption cases before these ones, and in those instances too, wealthy politicians were involved directly or through their cronies, and voters were the losers.

It is thus disingenuous to claim the reason Kenyans are suffering is because of the economic model. That is a white lie because we elect thieves whose main occupation is fleecing taxpayers and not uplifting them.

They always find ways through which to beat the technology put in place to prevent pilfering, and appoint people who can aid and abet their criminal ways.

Come election time, they run around, economists in tow, telling desperate Kenyans that what they need is pre-Hellenistic age tools of trade to forge ahead in the digital age.

These lies need to stop. Kenyans must know that no matter what economic model they are under, their suffering will not end until corruption does. Until politicians stop stealing from them. Until they stop electing thieves.