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State of the Nation: So much to celebrate, so much to worry about

Editorial

President Uhuru Kenyatta will this afternoon address an extraordinary session of Parliament from where he will deliver his annual 'State of the Nation’ address. This will be the third address since he assumed office in 2013. Under Article 132 of the Constitution, the President will each year apprise Kenyans of the progress his government has made in the realisation of national values, governance principals, international obligations and national security.

Judged by reasonable expectations, Mr Kenyatta's term in office has been one of mixed fortunes.

When he took over office, there was deep apprehension; what impact would the crimes against humanity cases he and his deputy faced at the ICC on the management of national affairs? The economy was out of kilter, thanks to the quarrelsome Grand Coalition government before it. There was also exaggerated hope; that a fairly young president will no doubt, wish to retire at 61 with a superlative legacy (assuming he wins a second term next year).

There are those who think that it is too early to give a dire prognosis of the Jubilee administration: After all, the economy is not in much peril; there are massive infrastructural projects going on including the Standard Gauge Railway and the Last Mile Project (that will see millions connected to the National Grid) which if complete, will propel the economy; widespread insecurity has largely been contained; devolution is unleashing great promise across the country. In fact, Mr Kenyatta deserves plaudits for facilitating the roll out of devolution, the main pillar of the 2010 Constitution.

Yet the elephant in the room remains corruption, which despite Mr Kenyatta's assurances that the opportunity for corruption in public service will be minimised, is still rampant. Since the last State of the Nation address, the flagship programme, the National Youth Service has reportedly lost Sh791 million and even the Youth Enterprise Fund has not been spared.

Questions surrounding the misuse of proceeds realised from the sale of the Sh250 billion Eurobond are yet to be conclusively addressed. And what's more, the economy is not expanding fast and wide enough to generate revenue and offer gainful employment to hordes of unemployed youth. Even though Government loyalists are quick to proclaim great success, the Kenya Revenue Authority has fallen short of its targets consecutively in nearly a decade. This shortfall estimated at nearly Sh70 billion apparently arose from a decline in payroll taxes signalling loss of jobs as companies trimmed their workforce to remain competitive in a not-so-good business environment.

Additionally, the winner-takes-it-all philosophy is the new normal. Sadly, this is fostering a deep sense of exclusivity. Little value has been appropriated from the unveiling of a progressive Constitution. The vision of a united, prosperous country has dimmed as the political class squanders opportunity after another in endless squabbles and supremacy battles. Laws like those limiting individual freedoms and freedom of the press have been mooted by an indifferent ruling elite keen to self-preserve and perpetuate injustices on the people.

We have heard less and less about efforts to minimise an unsustainable public wage bill, minimise wastage, cut back on red tape through a lean public service. What happened?

Yet despite that, Mr Kenyatta has the opportunity to turn things around. Will he?

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