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Hungry Kenyans won't hold for long as Kenya Kwanza take wine

Opinion

Kenyans are no longer regarded as among the happiest people on earth. Everywhere you go, there is a growing sense of restlessness, discontent and anger.

This frustration is no longer confined to those dumped at the bottom of the pile. Even those enjoy a reasonable degree of comfort, with a few luxuries occasionally thrown in, are beginning to feel the pinch.

Civil servants were promised a 100 per cent salary increase last November by Public Services CS Aisha Jumwa. Five months later they don't even know when they will receive their April entitlement.

Matters are more difficult in the devolved units and public universities where many professionals have not been paid since the year begun. No surprise, then, to hear that many are making preliminary inquiries about the Green Card Lottery to the US or checking out offers in the Arab states.

Economic uncertainty, demonstrations and insecurity can suddenly prompt another brain drain that the country can least afford. Kenyans do not choose the dangerous and treacherous Mediterranean route to escape hardship. They prefer to jump on a jet plane where there is no such risk of getting their hard-earned professional papers wet. Young professionals with such aspirations and ambitions, however, must be encouraged to stay and rebuild the country and not give up on their motherland.

These are difficult times and there are no quick fix remedies to the economic challenges facing the country. The chief economic advisor to the government, David Ndii, is brutally honest about the country's troubles yet instills hope that measures his team are putting in place can prevent an economic crisis.

Yet for the government to roll out its plans successfully, requires the cooperation and trust of the citizen. Trust is in short supply at the moment, however, as the optics of the elites refute the austerity measures the government is requesting the public to support. By his own admission and unprompted, Ndii admitted on TV that this government is extremely profligate and inefficient. He confirms what successive Auditor Generals have reported that up to 30 per cent of the budget is wasted or looted.

The culture of mismanagement he declares is systemic, historical and here to stay. As a result, his best efforts will go towards getting best value for the remaining 70 per cent of taxpayers' money and hopefully transform the economic fortunes of the country. Tackling corruption can wait if I read him correctly.

Ndii likes to see the big picture and claims the money set aside for 50 CAS, executive cars, overseas travel and offices of the first ladies is just a tiny percentage of the national budget. However, it is not the amount but the message that the government sends that is so infuriating. That insensitivity, arrogance and sense of entitlement that comes with being in power is what drives young people to the streets and the landless to invade idle land. Kenya Kwanza cannot expect to preach water while drinking wine. Citizens will make sacrifices so long as they see their government making similar gestures. But if it is one law for the rich and let the poor wait for what might trickle down, then the country is headed for troubled times.

The patience of the disadvantaged is quickly running out and the millions of unemployed youths cannot remain passive or silent forever. The country is sitting on a time bomb with the youth bulge but those in power have ignored the warning signs.

The elephant in the room has always been corruption. Ndii's view that this is not the opportune moment to tackle corruption is most likely representative of the leadership of the party who unapologetically appointed many unqualified individuals facing murder and corruption charges into the Cabinet.

But the foundation of the Constitution are its national values which in case you might have forgotten include patriotism, the rule of law, democracy, public participation, social justice, human rights, integrity, transparency and accountability.

Nowhere does it suggest that corruption and inequality may become national values. Let the government struggle to balance the books but if they live luxuriously while the rest suffer, then expect trouble.

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