The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report is finally out and it is time to interrogate the document and have a national conversation for posterity.
First, we appreciate President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga for joining hands to seek a cure for the maladies that afflict this nation after every election since their fathers – founding president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and founding vice-president Jaramogi Odinga Oginga, charted two different political paths after acrimoniously parting ways.
Uhuru and Raila March 2018 handshake that ended months of post-election violence and confrontations that had lives lost and property destroyed marked a turning point in the country’s quest for lasting peace, security and unity.
We now have a new opportunity to strengthen ties that bind us as well as deepen constitutionalism. As Farmers Party, we salute the BBI Taskforce Steering Committee for setting the pace for building a more just, fairer and prosperous country where citizens do not go for each other’s throats during every election. It is now time to separate the wheat from the chaff to ensure the document, touted as the blueprint for Kenya’s journey to becoming a utopia of peace, unity and prosperity devoid of ethnic-based politics and its trivialities, lives up to its expectations.
This entails having an honest and robust conversation on its merits and demerits devoid of chest-thumping or propaganda to whip up public emotions. We salute the President for his assurance that the report will be distributed to all to read, digest and engage in sober debate. After reading the report, we are of the view six issues need serious interrogation as raised on the floor of Bomas of Kenya by Deputy President William Ruto and Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi.
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These are proposals to drastically alter the composition or operations of the legislature, judiciary, executive, constitutional commissions, division of revenue and revenue allocation and the economy.
As submitted by the two leaders, the Senate, as the custodian of devolution, should be strengthened while the judiciary’s independence should be guarded and public participation in vetting of appointees by the National Assembly maintained.
We also submit that constitutional commissions must be retained and empowered while the proposal to replace the National Police Service Commission with National Police Council will deny civilian representation in the body.
Some of the proposals are also best adopted via the legislative arm and not through a referendum. They include proposal to give graduates a break of four years from paying Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) and increasing county allocation from 15 to 35 per cent.
Others include giving tax breaks for youth-led businesses for seven years and dealing with corruption cases within two years. Equally, paying supplies and services rendered to government within 60 days of delivery does not require a referendum and indeed the same is captured in the Prompt Payment Bill before the Senate.
There is also need to relook the public wage bill and the debt ceiling which stands at Sh9 trillion and is perhaps the greatest threat to the country’s development. Next financial year, Kenya is expected to start repaying its mounting debts and this will be a big challenge.
Another question is where the money to plug the revenue deficit worsened by the negative effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy will come from.
In view of the challenges, we submit the best option is to effect the proposed reforms through policy and statutory instruments enacted by the two Houses without a referendum, whose cost will be over Sh10 billion. There is also need to relook agriculture policy in the document. Agriculture, being the backbone of the country’s economy, contributing 25 per cent directly to the GDP and employing almost 65 per cent of the population is a key driver of the economy.
-The writer is the Farmers Party leader. [email protected]