Imports window used to strangle local industries

The story of Kenya has until recently been one of tears and disillusion. It is not certain yet whether we’ve shifted the gears against the tide of corruption killing our businesses, creativity, institutions and all means of production.

Take the case of the Rift Valley farmer who takes a loan to plant maize only for the crop to whittle down due to sub-standard fertilizer imported by the usual wheeler-dealers and their political prefects. The little that survives hits the market at a time when the same cartels have created an artificial glut with cheap and untaxed imports from all manner of countries, Mexico, Brazil, Uganda and Tanzania. The farmer or hustling investor then slides into poverty, the symptoms of which include failure to meet the family’s needs; medical, housing, food and education.

This tragedy is replicated in the sea and lakes sides for we now import fish from China. In the sugar industry, we now have factories strangled by the greed of a few and the unbridled importation of sugar, over which government officials who report to you cannot agree if it has unacceptable levels of copper and mercury. You wonder what other cock-and-bull stories they serve you for breakfast.

Pumice stone

The same affliction is suffered by dairy, beef and chicken farmers who agonise in the face of exports flooding the market from such countries as Botswana, Egypt and South Africa. Ladies and gentlemen, even the eggs and succulent seedless fruits and dairy products we buy on the roadside, especially in out-of-season period are imported, and so is the pumice stone we buy to scrape scales off our cracked heels.

The drugs and equipment we use are from abroad and so are the machines we drive, the furniture we use, the juices we take and the clothes we wear. Even the books, phones, furniture, shoes, spectacles, tooth-picks and detergents. Yes, there are traces of our own local manufacturing, but even those we take as inferior quality, in tandem with the neo-colonialism spell which conditioned our appetite for ‘consumption’ of western products.

They include films, plays and cigarettes. An idle mind called President Museveni across the border and a South African minister have also thrown in this mix certain copulation positions and modes of foreplay! In some quarters you could lump in these import accessories such condoms, deodorants and perfumes, as well as underwear and even wigs, some of which come from Caucasian human corpses in India and China.

Well, the first culprits in the renewed fight against corruption are the regulatory and standard agencies as well as procurement-driven units such as the National Youth Service and Kenya Bureau of Standards. There has also been a raft of bold measures the President introduced, including full disclosure of public tender winners and the curious one on subjecting suspended procurement officers to lie detector tests.  Mr President there is a problem here; who will be trusted to import the equipment (from the Chinese!), and isn’t this a moral question that has to withstand the law of evidence in court?

In jail

Finally Mr President, knowing your Kenyan, even the handlers of the equipment will be bought to write down a certain verdict. That is why except for quacks, no Kenyan doctor is in jail for gross misconduct or professional negligence.

Today as we laud the new Director of Public Prosecutions, Noordin Haji’s zeal and appetite for the medium-sized fish (no big fish yet!) we must remember that the war against this thieving gale would be won faster if we look at our import containers. We need to also look at the tax regimes covering them and ensure they deter imports. This is the lucrative window that is used to slowly strangle Kenyans under the guise of bridging the deficits in our own production capacities. It kills our production and promotes dependency and wastage of foreign currency. It also pokes the nose of your grandiose four pillars.

This to me as an average student of economics, which you studied better than many of us, is the artificial demand curve that those working under you have perfected. You worsened through such curious actions like importing Chinese rails, wagon, labour and at their cost - on crushing interest loan terms.

Apart from killing our appetite for borrowed cash everywhere, which may soon make Kenya an administrative unit of China (just like banks under receivership!), the effort to get dying Kenya on its feet does not require rocket science. As for the corrupt that you know and those you don’t, let the investigative, prosecuting and judicial agencies do their work, but first remove the millstone of political-correctness our leaders have tied around their necks.

Mr Tanui is the Deputy Editorial Director and Managing Editor, The [email protected]