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Writers wrong on how to fight poverty in Kenya

By Hope Mutanu | November 13th 2015

NAIROBI: In their opinion article published in a local newspaper, Dr Kibaru Mbae, the Director General of the National Council for Population and Development and Siddharth Chatterjee, the UNFPA Kenya representative, praise the population control ideology and erroneously claim it reduces poverty.

The big question is: is population the root cause of poverty in Kenya? Remember that for one to treat an illness, it is imperative to determine its root cause, not the symptoms.

Poverty refers to the deprivation of capabilities. Poverty has to be considered from the social, political and economic point of view.

Examples of the poor include street families, households headed by children and women, casual labourers, people without education and orphans.

The causes of poverty are many. The first is corruption. It involves abusing public office for personal gain. Corruption has a direct impact on the size of the informal economy.

It increases the cost of creating new business and staying in business within the formal economy. Unofficial payments and unpredictability of their size and frequency drive the costs and risks so high.

This makes entrepreneurs to prefer moving their business underground to avoid bribes that they have to pay for services such as registration, licensing and permits.

Corruption in social services makes them less affordable and leads to creation of alternative services in the informal sector.

Corruption at high levels of Government has a more profound impact on the degree of informality in the economies.

It forms barriers to the entry by creating a less competitive business environment and adds to business risks by increasing the levels of unpredictability of Government policies that are concerned.

The second cause is our education system.

Its major focus is on attaining white-collar jobs. Does it mean that the other jobs like art are invalid? We must acknowledge that we are different and the available white-collar jobs cannot fit us all.

Not everybody has a high academic performance, and that does not mean they have failed in life.

There are areas in which they can perform better, but the problem is that they are never given that chance.

Many students do not make it to secondary school, yet had they obtained some skills in primary school; they could determine what to do to be better in life.

Finally, there is the issue of poor governance. Governance refers to the way in which public institutions perform their functions. It is strongly correlated with deficiencies in development.

Bad governance is associated with corruption, distortion of Government budgets, inequitable growth, social exclusions and lack of trust in authorities.

Inefficiency in formal governance institutions leads to creation of informal institutions that substitute for the function that the formal ones are unable to perform.

Some of the solutions to the root causes include a critical utilisation of resources.

Resource efficiency can help us to meet human needs while respecting the ecological carrying capacity of the earth.

We are extracting more resources to produce goods and services than our planet can replenish, while a large population in urban areas is struggling to meet basic needs.

We should have a proper education system that acknowledges that we are different. It is true that all of us have different talents but, a talent does not work without skills.

One needs to train so hard to perform well in their different fields.

If we let the people who do not fit in our current curriculum lose hope, then we are killing our country’s prosperity because these people also have a great impact in our society.

Our leaders should also show transparency in combating ills like corruption.

This will occur if they foster the common good which involves establishing conditions which allow people either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily.

By doing this they will be creating an enabling environment for development for each and every individual.

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